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Prop A falls short of required two-thirds majority approval

57% of voters supported authorizing a new $5 tax to pay for fire district facilities

 

Last updated 12/20/2019 at 9:59pm



Voters failed to deliver the two-thirds majority of ‘yes’ votes required to pass the North County Fire Protection District’s Proposition A, according to election results certified by the district’s board of directors the afternoon of Dec. 12.

The proposition would have authorized a new tax of $5 per month, per parcel of owned property for a 20-year period to pay for construction, maintenance and improvements of fire stations in the North County Fire Protection District over the next two decades.

Out of 6,055 votes, 3,383 – or about 57 percent – were in favor, board secretary Loren Stephen-Porter told the board members at a special meeting Dec. 12. The results were not announced until after the Dec. 12 issue of Village News had gone to print.

“I’d like to thank everybody in the public for really supporting us in this matter, and all the firefighters, everybody who contributed all their hard work toward this,” North County Fire Board President Fred Luevano said. “Thank you for all of your efforts.”

The tax that Proposition A would have authorized, which amounts to $60 per year, was necessary because many of North County Fire's facilities are outdated, with a documented need of at least $26.5 million to meet facility standards, fire officials said of the election.

Seven of NCFPD's 11 facilities – including four of its five fire stations – are nearing or past the end of their originally-intended life span of 50 years, according to a newsletter published ahead of the election. Prop A would have raised about $1 million per year.

Board Director Bob Hoffman also thanked North County firefighters and fire district staff who worked to get the word out about the proposition.

“It was not for lack of effort that this did not pass,” Hoffman said. “You guys busted tail out there. We know it. You know it. The community knows it.”

Board Director Ruth Harris echoed that sentiment, thanking the Fallbrook Firefighters Association.

“You guys put your heart and soul into this thing and I’m sorry that it didn’t work out for you guys because you were going to be the recipients in your everyday lifestyle with this,” Harris said. “Senior staff, you guys worked your tails off and I really appreciate what you all did to try to get this to pass.”

Ryan Lewis, president of the Fallbrook Firefighters Association, extended his gratitude to the fire district board.

“The organization would like to thank the board for taking a chance on this to better our lives and our working conditions. It does mean a lot to us, and we don’t see this as a loss at all,” Lewis said. “57% is still a lot of people that said they’d financially back us.”

The special Proposition A election was conducted entirely by mail in October. Voters had to physically hand in ballots to the fire district's office by Oct. 24 or ensure they were postmarked by that date and received by Oct. 28. The election was handled by North County Fire through a consultant, David Taussig and Associates. The San Diego County Registrar of Voters could not run the election because it is overhauling its voting systems this year, but it would not have automatically been required to oversee the voting process anyway.

Election results were initially expected to be known by Nov. 1, but ballot-counting was delayed by David Taussig and Associates' use of a "comprehensive signature verification" process to ensure all of the votes were legitimate, the fire district said last month.

A total of 901 ballots failed the signature verification process, according to results confirmed by Stephen-Porter to Village News. Of those, 608 ballots had signatures that did not match the Registrar of Voters database of digital signatures, and the voters who cast those ballots were sent letters asking them to revalidate their votes. Only 152 of those voters responded. A total of 293 ballots were not signed at all and could not be revalidated.

It’s unclear what the fire district’s next step will be. With the failure of Proposition A, there is no source to fund upgrades to facilities – there was no Plan B, North County Fire Deputy Chief Steven Marovich said.

“The first thing we’re gonna do now is we’re gonna get through this period, find out what went wrong,” Marovich said.

Will Fritz can be reached by email at wfritz@reedermedia.com.

 

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