Hesperians delivered a crushing defeat to a proposed parcel tax on Election Day.


More than 80 percent of voters rejected Measure F, 5,243 votes to 1,260. The registrar of voters was still reviewing provisional ballots and ballots requiring review as of Thursday morning, but those results were unlikely to change the outcome of the election.


Measure F would have helped fund the Hesperia Fire District with a new $85 parcel tax. The fire district pays for Hesperia's fire service from the San Bernardino County Fire Department and district is largely funded by 15 cents of every dollar landowners pay in property taxes. (The rest ends up in San Bernardino County coffers.) That revenue has plummeted recently, dropping by 24 percent in three years.


Last year, the city depleted the fire district's reserves and covered the remaining gap with money from the city of Hesperia's general funds, something officials say they cannot do on an ongoing basis, as other parts of budget feel a similar strain. Measure F would have generated about $2.55 million in revenue the first year from the approximately 30,000 parcels of land subject to the tax.


"I think the voters made a very strong statement, and I'm delighted," Councilman Russ Blewett, who opposed Measure F with political ads and denunciations from the dais, said on Wednesday. "We need to send a message to government and bureaucrats that we have to live within our budgets, just like people like to do."


"Well, we're disappointed, obviously, the election went the way it did, but we're proud of the way we ran the campaign," said Bret Henry, a captain with San Bernardino County Fire Department. "We believe in community and firefighter safety, and that was the whole point of the thing."


Measure F was one of 90 local measures statewide, and one of 53 measures to increase, expand or extend local taxes or bonds, according to the League of California Cities. Most fared better than the Hesperia measure: 40 out of the 53, or 75 percent, were approved by voters, the highest rate of approval in a decade.


As a result of the parcel tax's defeat, Hesperia City Manager Mike Podegracz will negotiate with the fire department to reduce service by the equivalent of nine firefighters. Podegracz will meet with county fire officials to work out the details in mid-to-late November, according to city spokeswoman Kelly Malloy. He's expected to update the City Council at their Dec. 20 meeting.


"We have an excellent labor/management relationship here in the county," Henry said. "We do have input (into what comes next), and we'll see how it goes. The choice between the two options, neither is very good. ... Neither option is a safe option, either for the community or the firefighter."


"Now, we can get down to the real solution, and that is, we've got to make the economy grow again," Blewett said. "All of our problems emanate from the fact that the pie has gotten smaller and nobody wants their slice of it to shrink, so we must have to make our economy grow again."


Beau Yarbrough may be reached at (760) 956-7108 or at beau@HesperiaStar.com. Follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/Hesperia.Star.