Measure U strikes again after being laid to rest in primaries

Exeter Public Cemetery District board once again places Measure U on the ballot after defeat in the June primaries to ask voters in Exeter, Farmersville and surrounding areas to approve a $35 per parcel tax to help keep local cemeteries alive

EXETER – Exeter’s cemetery district went back to the drawing board to try and bring Measure U back to life after being defeated in the primaries.

Voters will see Measure U on their ballots once again this year after the Exeter Public Cemetery District’s board of trustees placed the measure on the Nov. 8 elections ballot. The measure fell short by 5% in the June 7 primaries, winning over the majority at 61.6%, but not the needed 66.4% of voter approval to be passed. The board is hopeful for this second chance and has made an effort to attend fall festivals, set up signs and visit local councils and boards to raise awareness about Measure U, according to trustee Vicki Riddle.

“We’re very hopeful the hard work will pay off,” Riddle said. “When the ballot measure failed the first time, that set off an alert and a lot of people. There’s greater awareness now [for voters] with a sense of urgency.”

Measure U is a special parcel tax of $35 per year assessed on each of the 8,200 properties within the district boundaries. The Exeter Cemetery District oversees Exeter Cemetery, Deep Creek Cemetery in Farmersville and Hamilton Cemetery off Avenue 310 between Exeter and Woodlake. 

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 of land. It would provide the cemetery with $270,000 more a year to fund designated projects outlined in the ballot. In order to keep up with inflation, the amount will increase by 2.5% annually. Riddle said that the tax is not permanent either, but can be rescinded if the board decides the extra funds are no longer needed. 

This measure would provide the district enough money to maintain the grounds at each cemetery, but without it, the cemeteries could be shut down due to lack of funding. To pass this measure would be to preserve a historical monument, according to Riddle.

“[There is] veteran history, World War II history, there’s even a soldier from the Civil War buried [at the Exeter Cemetery],” Riddle said. “There’s inventors buried out there, people laid to rest from the Vietnam War and the Korean War. There’s a lot of history that our young people can be proud of.”

In addition to spreading awareness about the measure through events and council meetings, the cemetery district also had to release a rebuttal against an argument from The Libertarian Party of California, who opposed many tax measures in the primaries, including Measure U. They stated that elected officials only wish to take taxpayers money and put it into agencies rather than allow them to keep it for themselves. The party also claimed that the creators of Measure U violated Elections Code 13119(b), which requires the specific amount of money, the $270,000, to be visible for all voters on their ballots.

“We all have deceased loved ones,”  stated the Liberatarian Party in an argument letter. “True history is nice, even sentimental. However, throwing money at a District that appears to have no prospects is like using it for firewood.”

The Exeter Cemetery board rebutted by stating the board is entirely made up of unpaid volunteers, who serve the communities through unpaid labor, serving the needs of families in Exeter, Farmersville, Lemon Cove, Lindcove, Outside Creek, Yokohl Valley who have loved ones buried in the cemeteries. Without funding, these operations will cease to exist and the cemetery will be handed over to the state, according to Riddle.

“The argument against Measure U makes wildly inaccurate claims, with vague generalities that don’t apply to Measure U or the Exeter Public Cemetery District, and with no supporting evidence,” the Exeter cemetery board stated in their rebuttal letter. “The authors of this canned argument appear not to have read or understood Measure U or have any concern for the future of our cemeteries.”

Exeter Public Cemetery District’s board of trustees recently established a new advisory committee to build transparency between the cemetery and the public, especially in regards to the tax revenue that would be generated if Measure U is passed in the general election. The advisory committee will show the public where Measure U funds will go, in addition to holding the cemetery accountable for how the money is used. 

The money will allow the district to accomplish beautification and service goals. They plan to open a new section of the Exeter Cemetery with more than 2,500 gravesites, install irrigation, plant grass and trees and lay out plots, which is estimated to cost about $200,000 in total. Additionally, Riddle has ideas for field trips down the road that would allow local students to learn about the history of the “founding fathers and mothers” in Exeter who have been laid to rest at the cemetery. 

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