Voters continue ambulance parcel fee
Those who did vote supported continuing the parcel fee that funds ambulance service for portions of El Dorado County in the Tahoe Basin – by a wide margin.
Ballots counted Tuesday showed 69.88 percent of the votes were for keeping the parcel fee in the mail-in election mandated by last year’s statewide approval of Proposition 218.
“I have stated many times that this is a life or death situation,” said El Dorado County Supervisor John Upton, the most vocal advocate of continuing the parcel fee. “I’m pleased that the voters have said the responsibility of saving lives under the two-ambulance system is theirs. They have stepped up to the plate and supported it, and, I guess all I can say is, I can sleep now.”
The votes were counted during Tuesday morning’s Board of Supervisors meeting, which took place in South Lake Tahoe.
Of the 37,025 recorded property owners within the service area, south of Emerald Bay between Echo Summit and the Nevada state line, about 19,000 are time-share interval owners.
Ballot counters from the county’s General Services Department reported 12,900 property owners cast votes in the mail-in election.
Ballots were weighted, based on the assessment paid by each property owner. The total assessment generates about $550,000.
The total ballots received totaled $237,837. Of these, ballots representing $30,292 were disqualified, because they were unsigned or not properly completed. The actual ballots counted represented about 40 percent of the total assessment.
Proposition 218 requires all assessment districts, parcel fees and other taxes created without a vote to be submitted to an election.
About a month ago, Meeks Bay area residents voted not only to retain their ambulance parcel fee, but also to increase it from about $6 to $24. The tax passed with roughly 83 percent approval.
Residents on the Western Slope of El Dorado County in November will vote on the parcel fee that funds their ambulance service in a special tax election. Two-thirds of the area’s residents have to approve the fees for this tax to remain in effect.
The South Shore election simply needed a weighted majority of property owners.
With roughly 50 percent of the area’s homeowners living outside the Tahoe Basin, there had been some concern that out-of-town property owners would not support the fee.
However, endorsements from the South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce, Lodging Association and Board of Realtors helped generate strong local support.
“It shows that voters are willing to support paying for basic services,” Duane Wallace, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, said about the election results. “It’s a quality of life issue.”
The South Shore parcel fee pays for about 45 percent of the total cost for the two-ambulance service. Prior to 1993, the area was served by one full-time ambulance, with a mutual aid agreement with Tahoe-Douglas Fire Protection District for backup service.
Lake Tahoe Ambulance Company is under contract through November 1998 to serve the South Shore. Sometime in the next 15 months, county officials will award a new contract – either to LTA or any other potential bidder.
Supervisor Ray Nutting expressed misgivings about Proposition 218.
“People are deciding to vote on assessments, but (elections) are unbelievably expensive,” Nutting said. “Are people getting what they wanted with (Proposition) 218?”
The printing and mailing costs alone for the South Shore election were more than $16,000, the General Services Department reported. Staff time brought the costs to more than $50,000, according to department estimates.
The county expects to pay more than $100,000 for November’s special ambulance tax assessment on the Western Slope.
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