County Voters OK Boost in Funds for Fire District

Grappling with six local ballot measures, Ventura County voters said yes to increased fire-department funding, no to a new traffic-control measure in Simi Valley, and maybe to construction of the county's largest convention center at the Ventura County Fairgrounds.

In unincorporated areas, voters favored Measure A by 104,664 to 31,143, or 77.1% to 22.9%, allowing the Ventura County Fire Protection District to spend an extra $22 million over the next 4 years to maintain services.

The fire department expects current property taxes to provide the needed money, but a 1979 state constitutional amendment made voter approval necessary before the district could use the funds. The Gann limit, named after its author, Paul Gann, restricts spending increases to an annual percentage based on inflation and population growth.

Officials figured they would have needed to pare $600,000 from the district's current budget and close as many as four of 30 stations to stay within the Gann limit.

Extra Money Returned

Under the original law, any extra taxes collected by the fire district would have been returned to the residents. However, the state Legislature approved a provision that requires special districts to share property tax revenue with each other. If the measure had failed, the department's unusable income would have gone to another district.

The department serves 373,000 county residents in an area spanning 865 square miles; last year it responded to more than 16,000 emergencies.

In Simi Valley, voters rejected by 19,380 to 13,649, or 58.7% to 41.3%, Measure C, a controversial initiative that would have forced developers to finance street improvements, such as the widening of roads, within 1 1/2 miles of their projects before construction could begin.

The city has been operating under state law that requires developers to alleviate traffic problems caused by their projects, but not before construction. In addition, the city sets no limits on the area in which traffic improvements must be made.

Preliminary reports by city engineers said the initiative would spur a minimum 6-month moratorium on construction. However, proponents of Measure C said the city could adopt a plan within two months.

The City Council last month adopted a policy prohibiting approval of development that creates permanent traffic congestion. But Measure C supporters argued that the measure was necessary to keep the city from reversing its new policy after the election.

Measure C opponents raised $105,000 between Jan. 1 and Oct. 22, more than 18 times the $5,300 raised by supporters.

Simi Valley voters also supported keeping the hotel-motel transient tax at 8%. The initiative, labeled Measure B, asked voters if they approved the 8% rate set by the City Council. If voters had rejected Measure B, the tax rate would have reverted to 5%, the rate in 1986, before the City Council raised it.

Measure B passed by 26,490 to 6,274, or 80.9% to 19.1%.

Fairgrounds Measures

In Ventura, voters were faced with two measures regarding improvements at the fairgrounds. By a vote of 21,863 to 13,049, or 62.6% to 37.4%, they approved a measure barring $9 million in no-interest loans for the 120,000-square-foot convention and events center. But they also approved by 18,549 to 16,462, or 53% to 47%, a city-sponsored measure that could allow the construction.

In any event, both measures are "advisory," with the Ventura City Council ultimately to decide the question.

The building proposed for the seaside site has been hailed by advocates as a key to drawing tourists and criticized by critics as a growth-inducing eyesore.

Measure E, sponsored by a group largely composed of disgruntled fair volunteers, was aimed at thwarting plans for the building by blocking the loans.

Measure F, sponsored by the City Council as a "clarifying" proposition, did not mention convention or exhibition facilities. Instead it listed a range of planned renovations for the site of the proposed center, including better beach access, improved parking, new livestock pens, extension of the oceanfront promenade and replacement of two dilapidated Quonset huts there.

The measure asked whether the city "should . . . continue to work with the Ventura County Fair in the financing and/or improvement of facilities at the Ventura County Fairgrounds."

In Moorpark, voters approved by 5,710 to 2,069, or 73.4% to 26.6%, the direct election of their mayor for a 2-year term. Measure D changes the present system, in which the mayor is chosen by the City Council.

Times staff writers William Diepenbrock, Tracey Kaplan and Jesse Katz contributed to this story.

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