IPUD Board’s Neutral Position on Wildfire/Water Conservation Parcel Tax Initiative - Measure O on the Nov. 2022 ballot
The IPUD Board of Directors has voted to remain neutral on Measure O. Earlier this year when the sponsors of Measure O, a citizen initiative, submitted the required number of valid signatures, the IPUD Board was legally required to place it on the November ballot for voters to decide.
The Board recognizes the sense of urgency of many Inverness residents who believe that more can be done to protect the community from wildfires and to prepare our small water system for dry conditions in the future. This measure sets a parcel tax of $0.20 per square foot of structure space and $150 per undeveloped parcel, raising approximately $275,000 annually. Its purpose is to provide annual funding for IPUD to “pursue protection of the community from the threat of wildfire and drought.” The full text of the initiative ordinance is on the IPUD website.
IPUD collects, treats, and distributes domestic water to Inverness residents and operates a volunteer fire department that works in conjunction with the Marin County Fire Department, stationed nearby in Point Reyes Station. By far most of the calls that the IPUD staff and volunteers respond to are for emergency medical assistance. IPUD response to such calls is often helpful before the Marin Fire paramedics arrive.
Measure O expands IPUD’s longtime structural fire suppression mission by adding wildfire mitigation funding and responsibilities. It also offers funding for programs that would enhance water conservation and our community’s capacity to survive drought, including the construction and improvement of water storage and distribution facilities.
The Board appreciates the history of our area, the two major wildfires that threatened Inverness in recent memory and the increasing damage that climate change is causing our forests. The Board also recognizes that IPUD has urgent needs to improve the resilience of our water distribution system including replacing the last of our redwood storage tanks (subject to fire and earthquake damage) and upgrading infrastructure critical to fighting fires. Measure O funding could be used to address these deficiencies.
The Board declined to support Measure O because of its concern that such an enlargement of IPUD’s fire related services has the potential of distracting the agency from its important purpose of providing quality domestic water. Such a potential for the erosion of our current services will be a focus of the Board in the event Measure O is approved. While the current IPUD staff does not have the time to administer the new programs envisioned by Measure O, they could engage contract consultants or even a part-time employee.
The Board does not know how much financial assistance the newly established Marin Wildfire Protection Authority can offer to Inverness homeowners, whether such funding will be adequate and whether a new local tax would be necessary. Major funding from MWPA to Inverness will have to come from the $660,000 in “core” funding which is distributed to the West Marin region annually and subject to the collective agreement of the region’s fire agencies.
The Board believes that it could put Measure O dollars to good use in supporting our existing infrastructure and water conservation activities which are important in mitigating the risk of wildfire in our community. Without a professional wildfire risk assessment conducted for the Inverness community, however, we are unable to say definitively how much wildfire risk could be reduced by Measure O programs. If Inverness voters support Measure O, IPUD’s board and staff will endeavor to respond responsibility and proactively to carry out its purposes.