Exeter cemetery tax measure close to dying

Measure U is a tax measure being voted on to provide funding for the three cemeteries, Exeter Cemetery, Deep Creek Cemetery and Hamilton Cemetery,  in the Exeter Cemetery District

TULARE COUNTY – As votes continue to be counted, the Exeter Public Cemetery District might be in trouble as they still need an additional 5% of votes to pass Measure U. Without this measure that would provide much needed funding, surrounding cemeteries may have to close their doors for good.

A week after the June 7 primary election, the Exeter Public Cemetery District is looking to receive a revenue boost they have so desperately needed. This measure requires two-thirds of voters to approve a parcel tax in order for it to go into effect beginning on July 22.

According to the post-election results report summary, 61.59% of total votes recorded support the measure and 38.41% are against it. This measure would provide financial aid to the three cemeteries in the surrounding areas including Exeter Cemetery, Deep Creek Cemetery in Farmersville and Hamilton Cemetery off Avenue 310 between Exeter and Woodlake. As of now 41.2% of registered votes of ballots have been read, leaving 4,548 ballots still to be counted. 

According to Supervisor Larry Micari, whose district includes the Exeter Public Cemetery District, the measure needs a 66% voter approval rate and as he sees it now it has failed. 

“The closure of three cemeteries in our area would be devastating to our community…they’re going to have to shut the doors if something doesn’t help,” Micari said.

This is the first time in history, the Exeter Public Cemetery District has asked the public to pay a little less than $3 per month to restore the three cemeteries, save the stewards of local families’ final resting places and ensure future generations can connect with the town and family histories. It was unanimously approved by the board to place this tax measure on the primary election ballot. 

These cemeteries are more than 100 years old. Measure U is a special parcel tax of $35 per year assessed on each of the 8,200 properties within the district boundaries. The tax is a flat, per parcel rate, meaning large landowners will not be taxed more than small land owners unless they own multiple parcels. Without the additional tax revenue, the district says it may only be able to operate five more years before it runs out of funds.

The money will allow the district to accomplish two main goals to stabilize its ability to continue offering services and generate income. The first is opening up a new section of the Exeter Cemetery with more than 2,500 gravesites. The Exeter Cemetery currently has just 70 gravesites left and there is no water at the Deep Creek Cemetery. Without the new tax revenue the district will only be able to accommodate burials at the Hamilton Cemetery, its smallest cemetery. The cost of installing irrigation, planting grass and trees and laying out plots is estimated to cost about $200,000.

Measure U will provide the district with an estimated $270,000 per year based on $35 per parcel for about 8,000 pieces of property in the district, which encompasses the communities of Exeter, Farmersville, Lemon Cove, Lindcove, Deep Creek and Yokohl Valley. The parcel tax measure also includes a 2.5% annual increase in the rate to ensure revenues keep up with inflation.

Board of Supervisors

District 4 Supervisor Eddie Valero continues to lead the race for his seat on the Board of Supervisors, but that does not mean he is out of a runoff in November. Valero currently holds 45.35% of the 8,693 counted votes. As more ballots are being counted, Scott Harness remains in second place behind Valero with 30.51%. Kelly Culver and Melvin Gong are sitting in third and fourth place with 16.36% and 7.79% respectively. However only 37.3% of registered voters ballots have been counted.

In order for Valero to avoid a runoff, he would have to gather over 50% of the vote. Although, with as many as 14,640 votes still left to be counted in District 4, the outcome is unclear. As it looks now with Harness’ lead over Culver and Gong, Valero and Harness will face off in November.

State Assembly

Incumbent to California Assembly District 33, Devon Mathis (R-Visalia), still holds a lead over both of his well known competitors, Jose Sigala and Ruben Macareno. Mathis has previously defeated both Sigala and Macareno in the 2016 and 2018 elections. With 33.7% of registered ballots in, Mathis holds 64.5%, Sigala holds 20.1% and Macareno holds  15.4% of the district wide vote. 

State Senate District 16

After a few days of counting votes, District 16’s incumbent Melissa Hurtado remains down. It looks as if the runoff will be against David Shepard who has gathered 44.9% and Hurtado who has gathered 30.3%. Currently 32.4% of registered voters in the county have been accounted for, leaving 49,380 ballots to review. The remaining candidates have gathered less than 15% of votes. Nicole Parra has gathered 12.2%, Gregory Tatum has gathered 7.9% and Bryan Osorio has gathered 4.7% of district wide votes. 

In the face of a shifting district that now includes portions of Kings and Tulare County and even parts of Bakersfield, Hurtado has still managed to lead three other candidates in the field. The district starts by wrapping around the northern portion of Visalia and curves back to include Hanford, Lemoore and Avenal. The district additionally grabs the main portion of Bakersfield and back up to include Delano, Porterville and half of Tulare.

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