Vote ensures road and public safety funds

Daniel Mintz
Mad River Union

HUMBOLDT – Humboldt County’s public safety services and roads will continue their current levels of tax funding, as voting for local and state ballot measures supported them.

The locally-advanced Measure O, which continues a half-cent sales tax for public safety services, was approved by voters while the statewide Proposition 6, which aimed to repeal sources of road improvement funding, was rejected in the Nov. 6 election.

Measure O extends the Measure Z sales tax, which would have ended in 2020 had voters not approved its renewal. The newly-approved replacement measure has no sunset date and can only be discontinued through another ballot measure process.

The county’s Final Election Night Report showed 72 percent support for Measure O.

It wasn’t a surprise, as county-sponsored polling done last summer predicted the win.

The voter approval will maintain what is described as an essential means of funding fire protection, sheriff’s patrols, ambulance services, children’s mental health and abuse response, emergency communications and road repairs.

According to county staff reports, Measure Z has yielded almost $34 million for over 70 public safety projects since its implementation in 2015. The current fiscal year will see Measure Z allocation of $12.8 million, funding 24 more projects.

Proposition 6 sought to repeal the 2017 increases in the state’s gas tax and vehicle registration fees set forth in Senate Bill 1.

The tax and fee revenue is being used to upgrade and maintain state and local transportation infrastructure. Its loss would have put the county at even more of a disadvantage in addressing a $300 million road maintenance backlog.

In a presentation to the Board of Supervisors last month, Humboldt County Director of Public Works Tom Mattson said that repeal of the gas tax and fees would trigger a 16 percent cut in overall tax revenue for road work in the current fiscal year, bringing to down from $8.8 million to $7.4 million.

In the next fiscal year, the tax revenue drop would be from $10.8 million to $4.4 million, Mattson had said.

The loss of the local share of tax and fee revenue would have also affected funding for regional projects carried out by the California Department of Transportation.

Prop. 6 was defeated with 55.3 percent of state voters rejecting it. Humboldt County voters rejected it with a 65 percent margin.

Sanctuary county

Measure K, The Humboldt County Sanctuary Law, prevents the county from using its staff and financial resources to assist federal immigration law enforcement.

The ordinance also forbids “detaining persons based on non-mandatory civil immigration detainers or cooperating and assisting with requests to notify I.C.E. (U.S.  Immigration and Customs Enforcement) that a person will be released from local custody.”

The measure prevailed despite the opposition of county government and Sheriff William Honsal. The accuracy of the county’s claims became a primary aspect of election debate.

Honsal described the measure as one that would have no substantial effect except to add expenses and hinder crime-fighting that I.C.E. can assist with.

A County Administrative Office report to the Board of Supervisors cited the range of the added costs at $171,000 to $312,000.

The basis of the cost estimate fell under scrutiny and supporters of the measure disputed the county’s claims, saying that enforcement of the ordinance will involve minimal administrative work.

The county’s opposition didn’t sway enough voters to defeat the measure, which was approved by a 51.5 percent margin.

The Election Night Final Report tallied the ballots of 29.6 thousand voters, representing a 37.6 percent turnout. But the election has an unusually high amount of additional mail-in and provisional ballots which are in the process of being counted.


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