Water Quality Crisis & Assessments Have Tax-Resistant Yucca Valley Mulling Sales Taxes

YUCCA VALLEY — Residents in the Town of Yucca Valley have long been averse to taxing schemes. Despite the fact that the town and its 20,700 citizens are among the most impoverished among San Bernardino County’s 24 municipalities and its 2.1 million residents, the Republican Party dominates Yucca Valley politically. The principles of eschewing taxes and resisting unfunded state mandates are deeply embedded in Yucca Valley culture. When the State Water Board began efforts to prompt the town toward ending local reliance on septic systems and building a modern sewer system, the local populace and its political leaders, who included Republican stalwarts Paul Cook and Chad Mayes, both of whom have moved on to represent Yucca Valley and the outlying area including and around the Morongo Basin in, respectively, the U.S. House of Representatives and the California Assembly, resisted. But as the pollution of groundwater became ever more critical, the State Water Board imposed on the town a mandate that called for the imposition of $5,000 per month fines on all septic tank owners if the the construction of sewer system in the town did not begin by this year. At that point, local officials were brought to heel and the Hi-Desert Water District, as the lead agency, committed to constructing the system.
With Yucca Valley homeowners being saddled with annual sewer assessments of up to $706, the willingness of the local populace to depart from its anti-tax stance has increased, public officials calculate, to the point where Yucca Valley residents might support a tax regime that will transfer a portion of the financial burden of constructing the sewer system off their shoulders. That assessment is to begin next year and run through 2047.
In 2012, Yucca Valley voters turned back Measure U, which would have imposed an additional one percent sales tax in the town. Measure U failed 49.1 percent in favor and 50.9 percent opposed.
The still-Republican dominated town council last week called for city staff to prepare two sales tax proposals for the November ballot, one to fund police and roads and another to assist property owners in paying their sewer system assessments.
The motion passed on a 4-0 vote, with councilman Merl Abel absent.
City officials think there is some basis to believe town residents will go along with the sales tax, which in addition to falling on them will be imposed on travelers through town who transit on Highway 62.
Town Manager Curtis Yakimow said a scientific poll of a cross section of the town’s registered voters conducted this spring that surveyed 305 respondents found that an overwhelming 74 percent were in favor of a tax to reduce the cost of the sewer system, and slightly fewer, 71 percent, supported a tax for public safety and local streets.
Yakimow said the support for the tax was more decisive than he anticipated.
Last week, of five members of the public weighing in on the proposed taxes, only one, Ed Montgomery, sounded his opposition to it. The others, who included former councilwoman Lori Herbel, as well as Sabrina Peukert and Nancy Haynych, said they would get behind the taxing proposals.

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