News Column

OPUD may have to run own election for special tax

June 24, 2014

By Eric Vodden, Appeal-Democrat, Marysville, Calif.

June 24--Olivehurst Public Utility District may have to run its own election if it wants to ask voters for a special tax to boost its fire department.

District Manager Tim Shaw acknowledged Monday that Yuba County Clerk Terry Hansen can decline to conduct such an election the district has been planning for the November ballot. That would mean the district would have to administer such an election, possibly with mail ballots, he said.

"We submitted a government code section to Terry that shows she can do this," Shaw said. "We have heard no response.

"She can do it, but there is nothing that says she has to do it."

The issue surfaced last week as the district board approved asking voters in November whether they would support a $120-a-parcel tax to raise money for the Olivehurst Fire Department. The department is run by the utility district.

Hansen said last week she is precluded from conducting an election because there are no separate fire district boundaries. While the fire department is run through Olivehurst Public Utility District, not all of the district is served by the department.

Because there are no fire district boundaries, ballots would have to be sent to every voter within the utility district whether or not they are served by the fire department, Hansen said. As an example, voters in Plumas Lake are in the utility district but are not served by the Olivehurst Fire Department.

Hansen could not be reached Monday to further discuss the issue.

The special tax needs a two-third majority to pass. If voters not served by the department cast ballots, it would be a virtual certainty to fail, Shaw said.

At issue is whether the department returns to being a part-time operation once a federal grant that provides additional staffing runs out early next year. The $720,000Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant approved in 2012 provides four full-time positions in the department.

If approved, the proposed special tax would raise about $432,000 a year.

Shaw admitted it would cause substantial work to develop separate ballots within the district, some with the special tax included and some without it.

He said that if the county clerk doesn't hold the election, the district board will have to decide whether to conduct an election itself.

CONTACT Eric Vodden at 749-4769.


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Source: Appeal-Democrat (Marysville, CA)

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