Newcastle’s Measure K falling short late Tuesday

Residents sharply divided on parcel tax for months
By: Amber Marra,
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Election results on a measure set to reform a controversial parcel tax in Newcastle indicated it was narrowly falling short of the two-thirds vote needed to pass.

Measure K held 735, or 62 percent, of the 1,174 votes cast as of late Tuesday night with 70 percent of precincts reporting. To pass, Measure K needed at least two-thirds of the vote.

Measure K was placed on the ballot by a group of Newcastle residents concerned with reforming Measure B, which passed in a special election in March by 68 percent.

Measure B imposes a $146.46 annual parcel tax on property owners that can be increased based on the structures on said property up to 3 percent annually. The funds collected from Measure B are meant to fund the construction of a new Newcastle firehouse to replace the current dilapidated, 90-year-old building.

Measure B is also meant to fund recently approved pay raises and benefit packages for firefighters and other staff members.

Measure K was set to reduce the $146.46 parcel tax to $30 per parcel after three years and done away with the potential for a 3 percent increase.

Since Measure B passed and Measure K surfaced, tensions have come to a boiling point in Newcastle with residents divided between the two. Part of those tensions stem from the Newcastle fire station itself, which was recently “yellow tagged” by Placer County building officials, meaning firefighters may collect their equipment, but not reenter.

The Newcastle Fire Protection District Board of Directors has located a space for a temporary station, but the makeup of the board was questionable until Tuesday with Chairwoman Yvonne Lewis, Vice Chairman Bob Stearns and Director David Poore all facing opposition for their seats.

Neither Lewis nor Poore would not comment on the election Tuesday night. A message left for Stearns, who was out of town, was not immediately returned.

Gary Cunningham, of Newcastle, admitted while walking out of the polling center at the Castle City Mobile Home Park that the issues with the fire department have been hard to miss.

“You can’t live in Newcastle and not know about it,” Cunningham said.

Cunningham said he voted against Measure K on Tuesday because he feels Measure B is worth the cost.

“I think once we have our well-equipped fire station the expenses will go one,” Cunningham said. “They only have to save my house one time to get that $146 out of it.”

Ruth Bissell voted at the Portuguese Hall on Taylor Road on Tuesday. She said she voted against Measure K because she could not be sure if the funds it raised would cover the cost of a new fire station and pay increases for firefighters.

“It seemed to me that (Measure B) set forth more exact terms of what needed to be done and (Measure K) leaned toward a lot of question marks,” Bissell said. “There were too many blank spots to vote ‘yes’ on K.”

Proponents of Measure K have differed sharply over the months leading up to the election, many stating that those on fixed incomes cannot afford to pay for the $146.46 parcel tax.

Veda Wells, who voted “yes” on Measure K at the Castle City Mobile Home Park on Tuesday, said taxes are already too high.

“It’s just all of these taxes, every time you turn around they want more and more money for everything,” Wells said.

Paul McCartney, who voted in favor of Measure K at the Portuguese Hall in Newcastle on Tuesday, said the Measure B parcel tax on top of the $150 Cal Fire fee some residents now have to pay is asking too much of taxpayers.

“I’d like to see us get the new station built and keep the same service we’ve had, which has been great service over the years,” McCartney said. “I think Measure K will get the job done and with the new tax from Cal Fire it seems like we’re getting hit by everyone.”

Contact Amber Marra at Follow her on Twitter @Amber_AJNews.