City of Desert Hot Springs Public Safety Services Parcel Tax, Measure F (June 2014)

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A City of Desert Hot Springs Public Safety Services Parcel Tax, Measure F ballot question is on the June 3, 2014 election ballot for voters in the city of Desert Hot Springs in Riverside County, California, where it was defeated.

Measure F would have authorized the city to make its annual parcel tax on vacant parcels to be $372.68 per acre per year. Measure F would have been set to expire on June 30, 2020. The parcel tax rates that were in effect prior to Measure F and remained in effect since Measure F was rejected can be found in the city attorney's impartial analysis.[1]

The city of Desert Hot Springs filed bankruptcy in 2009. Although some city officials, including Councilman Scott Matas, did not approve of Measure F, and others, including the city manager, thought it was the best way for the city to remain standing despite its uncertain financial footing, all agreed that the city needed to try its hardest to avoid another bankruptcy. Councilman Matas said, "How would they look upon us after claiming bankruptcy again, within a certain time. I just don't think it'd be very favorable."[2]

A 2/3rds supermajority vote was required for the approval of Measure F.

Election results

Measure F
Defeatedd No90638.52%
Yes 1,446 61.48%
Election results from Riverside County Elections Office

Text of measure

Ballot question

The question on the ballot:[1]

Desert Hot Springs Fiscal Emergency/911, Police, Fire, Safe Streets Measure. To address the City’s Fiscal Emergency and prevent a significant decline in the availability of “Public Safety Services” which includes: (a) police protection; (b) fire protection; (c) animal control; and (d) code enforcement, shall the City update its existing, voter-approved Public Safety parcel tax for vacant parcels only, at the rate of $372.68/acre, with annual audits and no tax increase for any other parcels?[3]

Impartial analysis

The following impartial analysis of Measure F was prepared by the office of the city attorney:[1]

Measure “F” will be a levy on vacant parcels only to help fund public safety services for the entire City. There will be no increase in the tax rate to homeowners or business owners who don’t own vacant parcels or to any other owners of developed property.

Preceding the City Council’s decision to place Measure “F” on the ballot, it declared a Fiscal Emergency and implemented pension reform, reduced employee benefits and holidays, cut City Hall staff by 66%, reduced most employee salaries by 22%, reduced and eliminated some consulting contracts, and cut some non-essential spending.

Measure “F”, if approved, will impose a flat tax rate of $372.68 per acre on any vacant parcel in the City. Vacant parcel will mean any parcel that does not contain any habitable structures with required plumbing, electricity and other improvements with validly issued permits within the parcel’s boundaries. If Measure “F” is not approved, the current Fiscal Year 2013-14 rates per acre will remain in place as follows: Vacant R-L Residential Low ($9.22 x 3); Vacant R-M Residential Medium ($9.22 x 5); Vacant R-MH Residential Mobile Home ($9.22 x 6); Vacant R-H Residential High ($9.22 x 8); Vacant Industrial ($2.54); Vacant Hotel ($10.55); and Vacant Commercial ($125.45), subject to annual adjustments due to increases in the cost of living.

The revenue produced by Measure “F” may only be used for public safety services which include animal control, code enforcement, fire protection and police protection services.

Police protection services include protecting the safety of citizens, enforcing criminal, vehicular laws and City ordinances; enhancing the quality of life for citizens; responding to calls for police assistance; cooperating with other City departments, law enforcement agencies and social service agencies.

Fire protection services include fire protection, fire prevention, rescue and medical aid services provided by the Riverside County Fire Department.

Animal control services include maintaining a safe and stray-free community, enforcing applicable state and City animal regulations; regulating kennel operation and maintenance; caring for impounded animals; providing pet adoption services; picking up stray animals; issuing and recording dog licenses; investigating animal abuse; handling endangered species; and removing wild animals and reptiles from the community.

Code enforcement services include enforcement of all city regulations regarding public nuisances, business licensing and abandoned vehicles.

Other than cost of living increases, the City Council is prohibited from increasing the rate or amount of the vacant parcel tax above the rate or amount set forth in Measure “F” unless such an increase is first approved by at least a two-thirds vote of the electors of the City at an election called for such a purpose.

Parcels owned by the City, the federal government, the state, or any other local public agency and parcels owned by any other public or private entity that is specifically exempted from local property-related taxation shall be exempt from the provisions of Measure “F”.

The provisions of Measure “F” will expire June 30, 2020.[3]

—Steven B Quintanilla, Desert Hot Springs City Attorney[1]



The following individuals signed the official arguments in favor of Measure F:[1]

  • Adam Sanchez, mayor
  • Gustavo Paiz, police sergeant
  • Philip B. Kerr, retired DHS Battalion Chief
  • Robert Misner, business owner
  • Michael R. Burke

Mayor Sanchez also signed the rebuttal to the arguments against Measure F.[1]

Arguments in favor

Some city officials and the city manager claimed that the city was on very unstable financial footing and could have faced bankruptcy without the revenue from Measure F. Martin Magana, the newly appointed city manager, said, "If measure F does not pass, probably the city’s going to be looking at bankruptcy.” Lewis Stewart, who spoke in favor of Measure F at a council meeting, claimed that the proposed parcel tax was the only viable option to increase city revenue. He said that the other options would tax the already overtaxed residents, while the Measure F parcel tax targeted vacant property, which would mostly affect out-of-town developers. Stewart said, "The only one that was fair to the overtaxed people of Desert Hot Springs, was a parcel tax, the only people not carrying their fair share were the out of town developers."[2]

Official arguments

The following official arguments were submitted in favor of Measure F:[1]

Close unfair tax loopholes for owners of vacant land and prevent the elimination of our Desert Hot Springs Police Department—Vote YES on “F”!

YES on “F” addresses our City’s Fiscal Emergency--preventing bankruptcy, deeper cuts to city services, and the deterioration of our home property values.

YES on “F” maintains our Police, Fire, and 9-1-1 Emergency Services, keeping our families safe.

Measure “F” is NOT a new tax. Measure “F” is NOT a tax increase for homeowners.

By voting YES on “F”, existing voter-approved funding is simply updated to close an unfair tax loophole for owners of vacant land that are not paying their fair share.

Measure “F” is NOT a tax increase on Desert Hot Springs homeowners, and it does NOT apply to anyone but those who own vacant parcels.

There is NO tax increase for anyone else.

Over the last several years, the City has reduced City Hall staffing by 66%, cut employee salaries by as much as one-third, implemented pension reform, and eliminated all other non-essential funding. Our City has made every cut possible and we need Measure “F” to maintain Police, Fire, and 9-1-1 service levels and prevent more severe, permanent service cuts.

YES on “F” includes fiscal accountability provisions. Residents will have access to public expenditure reports, and annual independent audits to ensure City officials use voter-approved tax dollars as promised.

YES on “F” prevents bankruptcy! We must continue to be our own independent City—otherwise, bankruptcy judges or the County could impose hundreds of dollars in new fees for services, and Desert Hot Springs residents would have no say in what they pay.

Vote YES on “F” to maintain Desert Hot Spring’s Local Police Department and protect our Future.

Remember -whatever you do, vote YES on “F” on June 3rd![3]

—Adam Sanchez, Gustavo Paiz, Philip B. Kerr, Robert Misner and Michael R. Burke[1]



Robert M. Bentley, former police commissioner and member of the National Writer's Union - UAW Local 1981 AFL/CIO, submitted the official arguments in opposition to Measure F, as well as the rebuttal to the arguments in favor.[1]

Councilman Scott Matas also announced his opposition to Measure F.[2]

Arguments against

Councilman Scott Matas said, "Measure F was a process I don't think was well thought out, it was shoved down the throats of the council members."[2]

Official arguments

The following official arguments were submitted in opposition to Measure F:[1]

First understand. Some delight in cruelty. When we fight, they applaud. When we fail, they rejoice. Be reasonable, be dignified, and we win. Don’t blame the person in the same boat with you, or the person lying in the gutter.

I can’t tell you what decision is right for you in your heart. You have to make your own decisions. I can only give you the facts.

You’ve been lied to again and again. Before the City Council election there was no talk of problems. Everyone claims they didn’t know of any deficit. Is this “innocent” dishonesty or just gross negligence? Neither, it is a trick.

When I hear the first few notes of a song I know it's playing again...
We just did this. The song is the same -
New city Manager is hired.
After "further review" he suddenly finds a previously unknown deficit.
More taxes are urgently required.
the deficit is not in Public Safety. (Currently 68% of our budget.)
Unsustainable imbalance; it's a deficit in everything else.
But by threatening Public Safety the City Council can get you to raise your own taxes with no reforms whatsoever.

City Council and previous City Manager have thrown the problem they created in your laps offering only one solution... more taxes with no accountability. And they will use it, as they just did, in their election campaigns, claiming they “saved the DHS Police”. Shocking! Make no mistake threatening our Public Safety is not saving it. If you vote to raise our taxes, please understand you are letting them off the hook completely. No explanation why they did this.

Remember, I was the only one who told you the truth.[3]

—Robert M. Bentley, former police commissioner and member of the National Writer's Union - UAW Local 1981 AFL/CIO[1]

See also

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