Borrego on the Ballot
Last updated 11/2/2018 at 10:48am
Of the 11 voter initiatives and local measures on the November ballot, there are three of special note for Borrego Springs voters.
First, the passage of an $8.8 billion water bond initiative, Proposition 3, will positively affect Borregans directly and significantly by helping to reduce our aquifer overdraft.
Second, local Measure PP is on the ballot for a long-delayed and much-needed funding increase for our fire district.
Third, bond Measure GG will help fund needed renovations and upgrades to our schools.
A rather eye-popping $35 million of Prop 3 funds are earmarked specifically for Borrego Springs. If the ballot measure passes, a sizeable amount of the $35 million will be paid out to purchase and then fallow farmland in Borrego Springs, thus reducing the rate of aquifer depletion.
Local farmers see the writing on the wall: A State-mandated 75 percent reduction in groundwater use over the next 20 years. A farmer “exit strategy” via Prop 3 funds therefore appears to be as viable an option as there has ever been, and as good as it is ever going to get.
Due to strong messaging by supporters, the ballot measure is, according to the latest polling, currently favored by statewide voters 49 – 33 percent, with 17 percent undecided. A vote of 50% plus one vote is required for passage.
However, as noted by BWD Board Director and Vice President Lyle Brecht, a few years ago one ballot proposition lost by a mere 3,000 votes statewide – an average of one vote per precinct.
Supporters of Prop 3 are trying to ensure that doesn’t happen again, so they are looking to raise an additional $300K statewide to complete their direct marketing campaign and get the measure approved. BWD can’t be involved in direct promotion of Prop 3, but individual Borregans can assist in the fundraising efforts by going to a contribution website: https://waterbond.org.
“What (passage of Prop 3) would mean,” Brecht said, “is Borrego would be able to meet the requirements of SGMA, and at the same time not put the water district and the community into jeopardy for huge additional costs for water quality, water treatment, and for moving wells as the water table continues to decline.”
Proposition 3 is definitely a “yes” vote for Borregans.
For another Borrego-specific ballot item, Measure PP, voters will be asked to pass a fire district tax increase on residential, commercial, and golf course properties.
A 2/3 approval is required, not an easy thing to achieve. But the money will be going towards a good cause. The funds will help train and especially retain good firemen, defray increased costs of fire protection and emergency medical services, and pay off unfunded liabilities.
According to Borrego Springs Fire Protection District Chief John Hardcastle, additional fire district revenue is needed to retain good workers and be competitive in the market for new hires.
“Borrego firefighters and paramedics are paid one-third less than in other agencies,” he said, “and retaining good people is getting harder and harder. Unfunded liabilities are also going up drastically, he adds, “and we’re struggling to meet those payments.” All fire district costs have gone up across the board, Hardcastle said.
In addition to the cost increases, “We are keeping fire fighters aboard for only about two years now, because Borrego is not only isolated, but the pay is better elsewhere for doing the same job. Where other districts get 200 job applicants, we get five.”
By way of example, the last FY budget for Bonita-Sunnyland Fire District, near Chula Vista, is $3.8 million; the budget for the Borrego Springs Fire District is $1.8 million for doing essentially the same work. “We’re trying to provide the same level of service as other similar-sized districts,” Hardcastle said, “but we don’t have the funds to purchase the things we need.” He said they are running out places to cut the budget. If approved, the annual tax, commencing FY2019 – 2020, will provide $720,000 in revenue per year until ended by voters.
If a registered voter here doesn’t own property, they can still vote for or against the measure; conversely, property owners who vote elsewhere will have no say on Measure PP. That’s just the way the system is set up.
And as to how Hardcastle thinks voters will react to an increase in their fire district taxes, he concludes, “Give them the facts, and let them decide. And folks can call me if they have any questions.”
Let’s tighten our collective belts here a bit and approve Measure PP.
Finally, we have the bond Measure GG for issuance of bonds. We’ll leave it to Mark Stevens, Superintendent of the Borrego Springs Unified School District, to summarize the situation: “Borrego Springs Unified has been operating since 1964 without ever having passed a bond to improve its facilities. We have improved our teaching and technology, our student supports and services, but we have been able to merely maintain our facilities, not improve them. At their core, schools are meant to be locally run and locally funded. Bond Measure GG is designed to provide much needed funds to upgrade our facilities. Our students deserve our support.”
Again, let’s support our schools by helping to pass Measure GG.
Borrego is on the ballot, so Borregans need to show support for these measures by voting “yes” on all three.