Hoping voters will approve a new round of funding for many of its most high-profile projects, Silicon Valley's largest water provider on Tuesday placed on the November ballot an extension of a parcel tax that would raise $548 million over the next 15 years for flood control work, seismic repairs on aging dams and environmental restoration efforts.
By a 7-0 vote, the board of the Santa Clara Valley Water District, a government agency based in San Jose, moved ahead with placing the "Safe, Clean Water and Natural Flood Protection Program" before Santa Clara County voters this fall.
If the measure passes, the tax, currently $54 a year for the average home, would continue through 2029, increasing at 3 percent a year, rather than expiring in 2016.
"The district's revenue is not sufficient to continue to supply clean, safe, reliable water going forward," said Linda LeZotte, chairwoman of the district's board.
"Some of the state and federal funding we've counted on in the past is being significantly diminished. So in order to meet our long-term goals, we need an additional source of revenue."
The district provides drinking water and flood protection to 1.8 million Santa Clara County residents.
If approved, the November ballot measure would continue a 15-year parcel tax voters first approved in 2000. Thetax started off at $39 a year per home..
A poll in June found 69 percent of Santa Clara County voters supporting the
The tax would be spent in three areas: flood work, water quality and environmental restoration.
Specifically, it would provide $201 million to fund flood control projects on South Bay creeks and rivers. Another $107 million would go for restoring wildlife habitat, clearing barriers in streams for salmon and steelhead trout, building trails and restoring bay front salt ponds. Another $48 million would go to seismic upgrades, mostly to Anderson Dam near Morgan Hill. The rest of the money would fund upgrades to drinking water treatment plants, removal of homeless encampments in streams and other programs.
While many of those projects are popular with the public, the tax measure faces several challenges:
There also will be local school funding measures, along with an expected one-eighth-cent sales tax hike by the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors to pay for law enforcement to hospital emergency room services. The San Jose City Council also is considering a sales tax measure for the November ballot to boost the city's ailing general fund.
Pino has since retired from the district. Callender is currently the government relations manager for the water district, and has led efforts to place the current measure on the ballot.
The district's leaders say significant reforms have taken place under new CEO Beau Goldie, including staff reductions, limiting practices such as paying employees for accumulated sick leave when they leave their jobs, and better oversight of projects. Also three new board members elected in 2010 -- LeZotte, Brian Schmidt and Don Gage -- have worked to make changes at the agency.
On Tuesday, board members noted the tax measure already has been endorsed by the city councils of Morgan Hill, Palo Alto and Saratoga, along with numerous local chambers of commerce and the environmental group Acterra.
Gage noted that if the measure, which provides about 10 percent of the district's budget, fails, that will result in fewer environmental projects, delays in flood control work and delays in seismic repairs to dams.
"Whatever the public thinks about the water district,'' Gage said, "we're protecting their future."
Paul Rogers covers resources and environmental issues. Contact him at 408-920-5045. Follow him at Twitter.com/PaulRogersSJMN