The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday will consider giving tentative approval to a parcel tax that would raise nearly $1 million a year for the management of the Paso Robles ground water basin.
The tax is one of three questions that could be put to voters and landowners in the sprawling 790-square-mile Paso Robles basin in an election planned for March 8, 2016. Two-thirds of the estimated 7,049 voters in the basin would have to approve the parcel tax for it to go into effect, said John Diodati, administrator for the county Department of Public Works which developed the funding plan.
County officials are in the process of forming a water management district for the Paso Robles basin that has seen dropping aquifer levels in recent decades. The other two questions that are planned for the March 8 ballot are whether the water district should be formed, which will be decided by a majority of landowners in the basin, and who would serve on the district’s 9-member board of directors, if it is formed.
The parcel tax would generate the $950,000 needed annually to manage the basin through a tax schedule which is a combination of a per parcel tax, a per unit tax based on how the land of each parcel is used and a per acre tax which is based on whether the land is irrigated or not.
For example, a rural resident living on 10 acres of non-irrigated land would pay an annual tax of $37.50. This is based on a $15-per-year parcel tax, a $20-a-year per-unit tax as a single-family residence and a 25-cent-a-year per-acre tax on 10 non-irrigated acres.
Irrigated agriculture has historically accounted for 90 percent of the groundwater pumping within the proposed water district. The proposed parcel tax would reflect that with 89 percent of the revenue generated for the basin management paid by irrigated agriculture, Diodatit said.
Based on the extensive public outreach, county staff believes this parcel tax funding formula is the most equitable and has the broadest community support, Diodati said. The plan has the blessing of the Paso Basin Advisory Committee, a 26-member panel of North County stakeholders appointed by the county to offer guidance on managing the basin.
“The funding formula appears to be fair and well researched,” said Sue Luft, committee chairwoman in a letter to supervisors.