Measure H opposition speaks up |

Measure H opposition speaks up

Emily Aughinbaugh, Tribune staff writer

A room full of El Dorado County Sheriff’s employees and fire department officials defended their budgets Tuesday against an initiative requesting $1.3 million of general fund money.

In a 4-1 vote the Board of Supervisors stated its opposition to the Builders’ Exchange initiative, named Measure H, with Supervisor Ray Nutting dissenting.

Measure H was filed in April and requests that no less than half of the Motor Vehicle License Fees that go into the county’s general fund be allocated to county road maintenance and repair.

All of the supervisors, with the exception of Nutting, expressed their concerns that Measure H would pull too much money from the general fund, thereby cutting the budgets of public service departments.

“To think we would have an initiative that would deprive these services of general fund money is incomprehensible,” Supervisor Mark Nielsen said.

Michael Hanford, the county’s chief administrative officer, presented a proposed budget for 2000-01. In the budget packet, Hanford compiled a list of how the county would be impacted if Measure H passed in November. Hanford said if the measure passes, about $4 million of general fund money will be transferred annually to roads, which he said will cut about half of the money used to support Sheriff and other law and justice programs.

“The fear that I have is the idea that the initiative could be filed not really for money we have now, but future money that we use for (public service) programs,” Hanford said.

Sheriff Hal Barker reiterated Nielsen and Hanford’s fears claiming the budget cuts would result in the loss of 10 of his 150 deputies, six patrolmen, and would shut down the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program and the Family Violence Unit.

Henry Batsel, Builders’ Exchange board member, said he didn’t understand why the board was pitting the Sheriff and fire departments against the Exchange. He said the Exchange was only asking for 50 percent of money that was coming in through DMV fees, which would amount to $1.3 million not $4 million as Hanford reported. Batsel said the Exchange’s intent was not to pull money from public service budgets but to fund road repairs that should have been budgeted by the board from the $8 million the county is expecting to receive from the state in vehicle license fees.

“When we talk about jobs, we need to be aware of what’s going on with the rest of the (general fund) money, not just this little pittance of a million bucks to fix roads, which has been robbed for the last eight or 10 years,” Batsel said. “I think honesty is a real important factor. This has become a real political issue. It’s really a power issue. It’s not a jobs issue. Anything that benefits the public is on the wane and anything that benefits the government is on the boost.”

Karen Kitchens, executive director for the Builders’ Exchange, said she was not surprised by the board’s opposition to Measure H on Tuesday or by the numerous police and fire officials that filled the board room.

“Mark Nielsen staged this,” Kitchens said. “This was his circus today.”

Kitchens said she has been confused by how inconsistently the board has dealt with Measure H.

At the July 25 supervisors’ meeting the board voted unanimously for Measure H to be placed on the November ballot and then filed a lawsuit three weeks later seeking the initiative be named invalid.

“If they were against this from the beginning why cause all of this,” Kitchens said.

The lawsuit, which names the Builders’ Exchange and County Registrar of Voters Michele MacIntyre as defendants, is asking the court to declare Measure H and other measures that seek general funds invalid, because the board believes the measures exceed the voters’ reserved powers of initiative and referendum.

The lawsuit is scheduled to be heard by Judge Richard Haugnar in South Lake Tahoe on Aug. 30.

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