On Tuesday, August 9th, the Nevada County Board of Supervisors approved placing a “Wildfire Prevention, Emergency Services and Disaster Readiness” measure on the November 8th, 2022, General Election ballot. The purpose of the measure would be to save lives, reduce the threat of wildfires, and improve all-hazards disaster readiness and evacuation safety.
The measure would establish a ½ cent countywide general sales tax that would apply to both residents and visitors. The tax is expected to generate approximately $12,000,000 annually for 10 years (“a sunset”) to fund critical emergency services and would require a simple majority approval by Nevada County voters to pass.
The final vote followed several hours of impassioned public comment. More than fifty residents addressed the Board, with 60% expressing support for putting it on the ballot and “letting the people decide.” The Board also received nearly 150 individualized letters, with over 88% in support.
“I appreciate everyone who came out and spoke to us. It’s clear to me that the community is on the same page about the need to take action to make our county safer even if we don’t all agree how to do it. Now it’s up to the community to decide if they want to vote for the measure,” said Board Chair Sue Hoek.
The measure is in response to ongoing community concerns about safety in the face of more frequent and more destructive wildfires, power shutoffs, last year’s devastating winter storm, and other emergency events.
“Right now, we have nine fuel reduction projects identified in Nevada County,” said CAL FIRE NEU Chief Estes. “We know we need to reduce the fuel load because it can save lives and protect firefighters.” Improving evacuation safety, removing flammable brush, and stopping illegal camp fires were key themes during the public comment period. “At the end of the day, if we can’t get out with clear evacuation routes, all of our efforts are for not,” said Friends of Banner Mountain President Ed Sylvester. “One of the virtues of this proposal is matching funds. Nobody wants to pay more taxes, but we could lose part of our county.”
County staff worked closely with stakeholders, including city and town managers and fire officials, to identify and prioritize critical safety needs and outline plans for how tax revenue would be spent.
“Through the dramatic increase in wildfires and emergency events over the past few years, we started to see that our needs were outpacing our resources, and we needed to bring a solution to the table,” said Nevada County CEO Alison Lehman. “The measure would allow the County to be proactive rather than reactive when it comes to reducing the threat of wildfire in Nevada County.”
If the measure is passed by voters, the County would create a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) to recommend funding priorities as part of the County’s annual budget cycle, subject to Board of Supervisors approval. The TAC membership would have broad representation from both eastern and western county, including city and town managers, fire and law enforcement representatives, senior county staff, and nonprofit and community leaders.
To ensure accountability and transparency, the Board of Supervisors would appoint a Citizens Oversight Committee consisting of seven volunteer community members, with one member from each Supervisorial district and two at-large members. The Citizens Oversight Committee’s roles and responsibilities would include reporting on the receipt of sales tax, on the allocations of funds per the expenditure plan, and the findings of annual audits.
“Any significant loss in our county is going to result in a loss in our business community, our outdoors, and our community as a whole,” said District 5 Supervisor Hardy Bullock in voting in favor of the measure.
Learn more about the “Wildfire Prevention, Emergency Services and Disaster Readiness” measure at www.ReadyNevadaCounty.org/Future.