By SUNNY LOCKWOOD
Voters in June will be asked to approve a parcel tax to help support the Murphys Fire Protection District.
The fire district board of directors last night passed a resolution calling for a June 3 special election on the tax.
If passed by two-thirds of people casting ballots, the tax would be $25 on unimproved parcels and $75 on improved parcels.
The money would be used to hire firefighters and to buy and improve fire and medical vehicles and equipment, and would nearly double the district's $120,000 budget.
The resolution, passed by the 5-0 vote of the board, says the amount of money available now to the district from property taxes, about 4 cents for every dollar of assessed valuation, is not nearly enough to keep up with demands for service.
The district's 28 volunteers serve an area of almost 50 square miles, including the communities of Murphys, Vallecito and Douglas Flat. Last year, firefighters responded to 428 calls, of which most were for medical aid.
While the five-member board worked on the resolution's wording, residents attending the meeting wanted reassurance that parcel owners would be notified of public hearings and meetings on the tax.
Director Bob Costa said brochures would be mailed to voters, and anyone who wanted to be notified by e-mail could contact the fire district at email@example.com .
Murphys resident Michael Peccia complained that a homeowner and a large business such as a hotel or winery would pay the same $75 tax.
"You're nailing the residents," he said. "The commercial property like the B&Bs and big motels have all this turnover and they're only paying $75. This (tax) will probably get shot down."
Director Helen Behrbaum explained the board had worked for almost two years trying to craft a tax that would be equitable to all, but the County Counsel's office nixed several of the board's original ideas including a transient occupancy tax and recommended keeping the tax simple.
For example, the board wanted to levy a $20 tax on each of the 183 homes in Murphys Diggin's, an over-55 mobile home park the site of most of the district's medical emergency calls.