July 07, 2011 5:17 PM
Beau Yarbrough
Staff Writer

HESPERIA • The City Council is expected to consider putting an $85 per parcel tax on the November ballot.

If approved by the council later this month — and two-thirds of voters on Nov. 8 — the tax would expire after five years.

The Hesperia Fire District is almost entirely funded by property taxes. In a time of falling property values, that’s meant that the district is now running a $1.1 million annual deficit, according to Kim Summers, the assistant to City Manager Mike Podegracz.

The council will also be voting on a second related resolution, which will spell out what the district will do if the property tax fails, as most of the proposed taxes in the city’s history have. The district will likely cut nine firefighters from its rolls, although the city will work with the San Bernardino County Fire Department on where those cuts will take place.

Cutting the salaries and benefits of the firefighters is not an option, however, as the city merely contracts for fire service with San Bernardino County, which negotiates those salaries and benefits with its employees.

Last year, the council chose to deplete the fire district’s reserves to pay salaries. Normally, city officials prefer to use the reserves for one-time emergency expenses, not ongoing ones like salaries and benefits, which make up most of the fire district’s costs.

Historically, Hesperians have been loath to approve new taxes, voting down two in 2001 and 2002, but it did happen once, in the early 1990s, and later expired in 2003.

The next regular meeting of the Hesperia City Council will take place at 6:30 p.m. July 19 at Hesperia City Hall, 9700 Seventh Ave.

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at (760) 956-7108 or at beau@HesperiaStar.com.

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