San Luis Obispo Mosquito Abatement Tax (June 2009)

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A San Luis Obispo Mosquito Abatement Measure was on the June 23, 2009 ballot in San Luis Obispo County, where it was defeated.

The measure on the ballot asked voters to approve a tax increase to help pay for a mosquito fighting program.[1] If the tax increase had been approved, it was expected to raise about $1 million annually to fund a "full vector-control program, including prevention and abatement efforts."[2]

  • Yes: 33%
  • No: 67%[1]

Property owners only

The election was conducted on a mail-in ballot-only basis. About 93,000 ballots were mailed to property owners in the county, who were the only voters eligible to vote in this particular election. About 38,000 ballots were cast.[3]

Votes in the election, which was mandated by the terms of Proposition 218, were weighted based on how much the property owned by a particular voter is worth.[2]

The assessment for a single-family residence under the proposal would have been $9.80 a year. Agricultural property would have been assessed by the acre. Irrigated parcels would have paid a higher tax than parcels used for range land.[2]

Ambivalent county supervisors

San Luis Obispo County used to pay for mosquito control services with its general fund money. As money in that fund grew tighter, county supervisors decided to instead ask for a special assessment specifically targeted at mosquito control.[1]

On April 7, the San Luis Obispo Board of County Supervisors voted to put this ballot measure on the ballot. They also gave environmental health officials in the county $280,000 to hire a campaign/public relations consultant to put together a plan to help get the tax passed.

Two months later, on June 23, the county's supervisors did an about-face, concluding that the process was "so botched and the public information was so bad" that the county should not itself cast a vote. (The county, as an entity, was entitled to cast about 700 votes in the election because it is a substantial property owner in the county.)[3]

Critics of tax

Critics of the tax-increase ballot measure said that county officials gave misleading information to voters. Public information materials developed by the county's consultant at taxpayer expense emphasized the dangers of West Nile Virus. However, critics said that since 2003 there have only been two human cases of West Nile in the county.[3]

In response, San Luis Obispo County Environmental Health Director Curt Batson said, "To think that San Luis Obispo County is immune or can’t be the center of an outbreak is not very forward thinking."[3]