A proposed parcel tax is off to a rough start as the first vote count was released Tuesday night.


Measure F would levy an $85 tax on each parcel of land in the city, with the revenue going to the Hesperia Fire District, the government agency that pays for fire service from the San Bernardino County Fire Department. The district is largely funded by 15 cents of every dollar landowners pay in property taxes, and that revenue has plummeted in recent years, dropping by 24 percent in three years following the collapse of the housing market bubble.


Last year, the city kept funding for the fire district whole with funds from the city of Hesperia's general funds, something officials cannot afford to do again, as they try to keep from making cuts in other city services.


The city estimates there are about 30,000 parcels of land that would be subject to the tax, given the high number of government-owned parcels, which are exempt, according to city spokeswoman Kelly Malloy.


Measure F would generate about $2.55 million in revenue the first year, creating a surplus of $900,000. That extra money would go to replenish the fire district's reserves, which are supposed to be maintained at 9 percent of annual revenue, according to council policy. The first year revenue wouldn't refill it to 9 percent, but it would refill in the second and subsequent years.


As a special tax, the revenue can only be spent on the purpose it's collected for in this case, the Hesperia Fire District. Counter-intuitively, this more restricted form of tax is harder to approve than a general tax, and requires the approval of two-thirds of voters.


If approved, the Measure F tax would expire, or "sunset," in five years.


Should Measure F fail, Hesperia City Manager Mike Podegracz has been authorized -- by the same July vote that put the measure on the ballot -- to negotiate with the fire department to reduce service by the equivalent of nine firefighters. Whether that means closing a firehouse or reducing the number of firefighters working each shift is yet to be determined. Podegracz will meet with county fire officials in mid-to-late November, according to Malloy, and will likely update the city council at their Dec. 20 meeting.


With 6.12 percent of the vote counted as of 8:01 p.m., voters were strongly against the proposed tax, with 78.65 percent -- 3,471 out of 4,413 votes counted -- voting no.


The registrar of voters' office expects to release an updated vote count around 9:30 p.m.


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