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Scotts Valley
June 21, 2024

Scotts Valley Fire District tax fails by less than 1%

Plan for new station misses mark by 12 votes

Local firefighters posted to Erba Lane had been hoping to get funding for a new fire station this Christmas season, but it looks like they’ll be stuck exercising in the garage and sleeping in windowless rooms for the foreseeable future, as Measure W failed by less than 1%.

After a spot-check confirmed voting machines worked properly, and reviews went over envelopes with signature discrepancies and elections officials waited for any overseas votes to come in, it turned out 66.42% of voters wanted the parcel tax (3,234 votes) compared to the 33.58% who voted against it (1,635 votes).

That was just shy of the 66.67% needed to win—3,246 votes.

This means the tax—which would’ve generated about $1 million a year at $27.50 per $100,000 of assessed property value—failed by 12 votes.

“I just want to thank the community for their support,” said Fire Chief Mark Correira, who recently came to the Scotts Valley Fire District from Washington state. “We took it as a resounding ‘Yes,’ but it’s just not enough to get it over the threshold.”

The official results were posted around noon Monday.

Ironically, the official “impartial analysis” of the bond measure posted to Santa Cruz County’s website states just “two-thirds (66 percent)” would be required to succeed.

If 66% is all that was needed, the fire district’s fire station dream would be coming true.

But County Clerk Tricia Webber says the law is clear—that wouldn’t be grounds for appeal.

“I thought it was a very smooth election, from our standpoint,” she said. “When they’re like this, your voice does matter.”

In fact, there were 12 votes with signature issues that were thrown out and never opened.

If each of those signers were legitimate Measure W voters, and had each one reached out to cure their ballot, it would’ve been enough to tip the scales the other way.

“We don’t know if they were ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ votes,” Correira said. “We wanted to make sure that every vote was counted and turned in.”

Correira told fellow fire chiefs in Washington about the 66.42% figure.

“‘Oh, congratulations,’” they said, he recalled. “In Washington, this would have passed, because it has a 60% threshold.”

Just over a third of registered voters cast a ballot. There were 50 people who voted in-person, with the rest turning in their intentions by post. And there were six “undervotes,” meaning ballots where neither “yes” nor “no” was marked.

On Nov. 20, at 9:30am, elections officials began the manual recount. It lasted until 3:30pm that day, with the remainder added up the following morning.

“All of the ballots that were cast were all double-counted,” Webber said. “We came up with the same results as we did with our machine tabulation.”

There were no electricity problems and just one same-day registration of a voter.

“It was a good warm-up for March,” said Webber, referring to the upcoming presidential primary.

And now the fire district heads back to the drawing board.

“We just need to figure out how to move forward,” Correira said, adding a new fire station is still his top priority. “I’m really proud of the team that worked on this.”

Drew Penner
Drew Penner
Drew Penner is an award-winning Canadian journalist whose reporting has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Good Times Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times, Scotts Valley Press Banner, San Diego Union-Tribune, KCRW and the Vancouver Sun. Please send your Los Gatos and Santa Cruz County news tips to [email protected].

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