Voters Disapprove Property Tax to Fund Pest, Vector Control Services

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A proposed $3.59M yearly property tax assessment to fund Marin and Sonoma counties’ pest and vector control services has been rejected by voters as the ballot results were revealed on Wednesday.

Marin-Sonoma Mosquito and Vector Control District has been criticized for its spending, considering the recession. The board of trustees, after learning the results, passed a budget proposal for 2015-2016, which was drawn up, following the disapproval of the tax assessment.

A Wednesday meeting voted to save the slot for a biologist originally scheduled to be cut. A board trustee and Fairfax representative in Marin County, Frank Egger said there could still be hope. The ballot results also ruined the board’s goal in making headway to pay down $3.95M in unfunded pension obligations, while the district’s budget for the current year amounts to $8.59M.

The results of the election were revealed on Helman Lane with 51% voted against the proposal. The ballots were casted by almost 31, 340 property owners. Tax ballots were sent to 213,500 property owners in Marina and Sonoma counties in February, but only 31% of it returned on the deadline.

Egger said the ballot was doomed since the beginning and were not vetted by the board thoroughly. If the voters supported the proposal, the assessment should have reached an additional $12.86 to the bill for a single-family homeowner. When combined with additional taxes related to the agency, the overall amount would be $35 per year for mosquito-fighting and related services. With the rejection, the current assessment is maxed out at $12 for a single-family homeowner.

The district’s main goal is mosquito-control and related disease-carrying insects and pests within the 2 counties. Staff members have examined mosquitoes as well as dead birds linked to diseases and viruses. They have also collected ticks and examined them as property owners complain about yellowjacket nests. Staff members also participate in educational programs like classroom visits and science fairs.

The staff has also inspected 194 sites associated with rodents in 2014, while 131 sites this year. The agency receives funding through a property tax share that is generally paid by the residents of Marin and Sonoma counties, and other revenues linked to assessments.

The meeting on Wednesday was attended by personnel, biologists, district technicians and their families. Amongst them, two spoke before the board, asking them to spare jobs for about 32 staff. Dan Leslie, a technician said that mosquitoes are rarely seen swarming in the counties, an evidence that the agency is doing the job well.

The Western Council of Engineers executive director, Nancy Watson has bargained on behalf of the employees, asking the board to seek further ideas on where to make other cuts. Watson also explained that this vote should be a drastic measure, but not requiring drastic cuts.

Lee Braun, serves as Marin County’s representative and a board trustee, said that the budget committee will review the draft budget and will seek other ideas to make cuts. The budget shortfall to be addressed is amounting to $400,000, urging more ideas for the next district meeting scheduled on June 10.

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Katrina Bell is an investigative journalist and is a correspondent for European Union. She is based in Zurich in Switzerland and her field of work include covering human rights violations which take place in the various countries in and outside Europe. She also reports about the political situation in European Union. She has worked with some reputed companies in Europe and is currently contributing to USA News as a freelance journalist. As someone who has a Masters’ degree in Human Rights she also delivers lectures on Intercultural Management to students of Human Rights. She is also an authority on the Arab world politics and their diversity.

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