Ballot Decision Summary: What is Prop 3, Measures PP & GG?
Last updated 11/14/2018 at 1:45pm
A critical mid-term election cycle is on the minds of tens of millions of Americans from sea to shining sea, including those of voters here in Borrego Springs. On the November ballot, Borregans are faced with three significant yes/no decisions – Propositions 3, Measure-PP, and Measure-GG.
Borrego Valley doesn’t need more groundwater. With steady recharge used more efficiently, our aquifer could provide us with a nearly perpetual supply for residents and businesses, golf courses, and even some small agricultural operations. Rather, we need fewer large pumpers.
Proposition 3 is an $8.8 billion Statewide bond effort to address regional and local water issues. Within that budget are $35 million earmarked specifically for Borrego Springs. Businesses, agricultural interests, and government officials up and down the State support Prop-3; Californians favored the proposition in the latest poll 49 – 33%. Local Ag interests, plus donations from other Borregans and private sources, have contributed to the statewide media info campaign.
Prop 3 funds will be used mostly to purchase and fallow land historically and currently devoted to citrus crops having an extraordinary thirst. And there is a limited time-frame in which to identify and purchase appropriate parcels. In addition, land purchase must not only be negotiated, but also fallowing costs, including environmental mitigation and restoration, will be expensive – up to $50K/acre for active restoration, but dependent upon many parcel-specific variables.
We need the ever-dropping level of fresh, potable groundwater under those fallowed lands before we start to reach lower-water quality water needing filtration or treatment. Prop-3 will go a long way to help reach our year-2040 sustainability goal of the State-mandated use of 5,700 acre-feet per year (we currently pump about 20,000 a-f/yr).
Prop 3 is the best means of getting the money we need to implement our Groundwater Sustainability Plan in a timely, efficient, and cost-effective manner.
As an unincorporated city within the County, Borrego Springs relies on County funding for, among others, local emergency services. With virtually stagnant salaries over 10 years for firefighters, paramedics, and EMT’s (even cost of living increases have not been allowed), Measure PP attempts to address the imbalance. The yearly $750K budget allowed by Measure PP is somewhat controversial, as it involves 2/3 voter approval (a very high threshold to overcome) by property owners and non-owners for a tripling of parcel taxes in virtually all fire district-related categories in the Borregan economy. However, as was the case with our BWD’s neglected infrastructure financing in years past that cost Borregans dearly in the long run, our Fire District must hire, and particularly retain emergency workers of high quality and job enthusiasm for current and future contingencies.
According to Fire Chief John Hardcastle, the District is not meeting several financing milestones. This includes retaining personnel who have been trained, at significant expense, but are also underpaid by one-third the salary of similar fire districts. Not exactly a magnet for steady employment. The problem also includes new hires reluctant to come to work or live here, again because of salary levels. Chief Hardcastle says the average length of fire district employment in Borrego is a scant two years. And where the number of applicants for an opening in other districts can run into the hundreds, he says our district gets applicant numbers in single digits, “Like five,” to quote him exactly.
Each voter must decide for him or herself if and why an increase on property owners is warranted. If enough voters decide it’s a “yes,” then property owners who vote and/or live elsewhere will have to live with that local decision from folks who do vote and live here. There is a mechanism in place for property owner approval for some parcel tax/fee levies, but Measure PP is not one of them.
Borregans rely on each other for many local projects and causes.
As such, we are very generous in our financial support of various fundraisers in support of our local schools.
But classroom modernization, capital improvements, and needed renovations at our elementary school, middle school, and high school require more than $7 donations to host a pancake breakfast to cover the cost of sports uniforms and equipment and travel costs to tournaments, even if every single Borregan did so.
Ballot Measure GG funding, capitalized at $8.6 billion via issuance of statewide bonds, will distribute $560K annually for needed projects and cannot be diverted to other State needs.
If the kids or teachers in Borrego need something beyond “fundraising” levels of financing for a given project, we can apply for it via Measure GG. There will be competition for funds, to be sure, but at least we have a fair shot at them.