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Small districts play big role in upcoming election

Small districts play big role in upcoming election

Candidates interested in running for office this November must file with Registrar of Voters by 5 p.m. on Aug. 10

@TheSunGazette

TULARE COUNTY –  For the first time in nearly 150 years, residents of Seville and Yettem will have two elections to consider – one for Stone Corral Elementary School district and another about forming a new Community Services District for water and sewer.

On July 17, the Board of Supervisors voted to hold an election allowing residents of Seville and Yettem, two rural communities that share a school district between Cutler-Orosi and Woodlake, to form a community services district (CSD) to jointly manage their water systems. CSDs are districts that provide a broad list of public services that can vary from one district to the next. Primarily, CSDs provide water and sewer to residents living in the jurisdiction.

If Seville and Yettem residents vote to form the County’s first community services district in five years and only the third formed since 1973. Simultaneously, residents will elect five board members to oversee the new district. Those interested in running for the district, and other large and small elections held on Nov. 6, 2018, must file nomination papers with the Registrar of Voters by 5 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 10. Some offices require nomination signatures which are gathered during the nomination period that began on, July 16 and ends on Aug. 10. Contact the Elections office for further information. For additional information regarding Nomination forms for an elective office, please contact the Registrar of Voters office at 559-624-7300.  

The other Community Services Districts holding elections this November are Three Rivers, which has two seats up for election, and Tract 92, a small community of 97 homes 1.5 miles southwest of Visalia, which has three full time seats and one short term seat. 

Public Utility Districts
In addition to CSDs, there are other small districts that, unless you live in one, you might be unaware of. Local communities such as Ivanhoe and Strathmore receive water, sewer, and street lighting services through a public utility district or PUD. Ivanhoe PUD users will vote for two full-time directors (Seat 4, 5) and a part-time director (Seat 2 Short Term), Strathmore PUD will vote for one full-time director (Seat 1) and a part-time director (Seat 3 Short Term). 

Other PUDs with elections include: Pixley, two directors (Seat 2, 3); Springville, two directors (Seat 1, 2); Woodville, three directors (Seat 2, 3, 4). Lemon Cove has a Sanitary District that oversees a community sewage system and can abate certain nuisances. Lemon Cove will vote for three full time directors. There will also be an election for two directors on the Storm Water District of Deer Creek, a small cluster of homes in the southwest corner of Tulare County near the Kings County and Kern County borders.

Irrigation Districts
Also providing water to Tulare County are irrigation districts. The election of irrigation district board members will become increasingly important as they will make up several seats on the three Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSA) formed in Tulare County. GSAs are already up against a difficult deadline to submit their groundwater sustainability plans to the state by 2020. These plans will have to address how to maintain groundwater levels, or improve them, under the rules outlined by the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act adopted by the California Legislature in 2014. Irrigation districts with elections in November include: Exeter, three directors (Div. 1, 4, 5); Ivanhoe, three directors; Lindmore, three directors (Div. 1, 2, 4); Lindsay-Strathmore two directors (Div. 1, 2) and two short-term directors (3, 4); Lower Tule River, three directors (Div. 1, 2, 5); Orange Cove, two directors (Div. 3, 5); Porterville, three directors (Div. 2, 3, 4); and Stone Corral, two directors.

School Districts
Seville and Yettem residents are just one example of the many elections taking place in small districts around Tulare County this November. In addition to one seat on the Stone Corral Elementary School board, there will be elections in many K-8 school districts on the ballot, including: Liberty, 3 board members; Springville Union, 3 board members; Strathmore Union, three board members (Area 2, 4, 5); Three Rivers Union, three board members; and Woodville Union, two board members.

These small districts do not offer secondary education, so their students are often feeder schools for unified and high school districts. Every unified school district except for Dinuba and Cutler-Orosi will have an election this year. Woodlake Unified will be electing three board members (Area A, B, D) who will work with a new superintendent. Drew Sorensen retired at the end of the 2017-18 school year after six years as Woodlake superintendent. He was succeeded by Alfonso Gamino who is the district’s first Latino superintendent. By the time Exeter Unified voters find out who their new board members are they may also find they will have a new superintendent. More than half of the Exeter Unified board is up for election with four seats (Area 2, 4, 5, 6) on the November ballot. Tim Hire, Exeter’s current superintendent, is also on the ballot because he is running for Tulare County superintendent of schools. If he is elected over Craig Wheaton, currently the deputy superintendent of schools for Tulare County, he would take over for the retiring Andy Vidak in early 2019. Hire or Wheaton may also be working with a new board as the county Board of Education has three board members seats (Area 1, 4, 7) up for election. 

Other unified school districts include: Farmersville Unified, three board members; Lindsay Unified, three board members (Area 1, 2, 5); Porterville Unified, four full-term board members (Area 3, 4, 5, 7) and one short-term board member (Short Term Area 1); and Visalia Unified, four full-term board members (Area 1, 2, 3, 4) and one short-term board member (Short Term Area 5).

After the unification of the elementary and high school districts in Woodlake (2011) and Exeter (2012), Tulare Join Union is the only high school district that remains in Tulare County. The district will vote on three school board members (Area 2, 3, 5) on the November ballot. There is only one community college district election in Tulare County. College of Sequoias voters will vote for three board members (Ward 1, 2, 5) and one short-term board member (Short Term Area 3).

Hospital Districts
Already struggling to keep a quorum, voters in the Exeter Ambulance district will try to fill more than half of its board by electing two full-time directors (Area 2, 3) and two short term directors (1, 5) for the special tax district. 

Technically a hospital district, Exeter District Ambulance only draws property tax from an area slightly larger than the Exeter city limits but most respond to medical alerts and emergency medical calls throughout the entire county as part of a consolidated dispatch contract between Tulare County and its five ambulance providers. 

One of its ambulances was purchased through a donation by the Lindsay Local Hospital District, one of two hospital districts without a hospital. The Lindsay Hospital closed in 2000 and instead of dissolving the district, similar to what Exeter did after the Memorial Hospital closed in 2001, the Lindsay Hospital board decided to continue assessing the property tax on residents to fund health-related projects in the area, such as annual operating costs for the Wellness Center. Two seats will be up for election on the that board. Other hospital districts include: Kaweah Delta Healthcare in Visalia, two directors (Zone 2, 4); and Sierra View Local Hospital in Porterville, two directors (Zone 3, 5).

City Council
The City of Exeter will be the latest Tulare County public agency to hold its first election where councilmembers are elected by district and not from the city at-large. Exeter was forced to make the shift to “by-trustee” election last summer after a Southern California attorney threatened to sue the city for violating the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA). The law prohibits agencies from having election boundaries that dilute minority voting blocks by carving up minority neighborhoods. The attorney argued that at-large elections favor white candidates. Under the new districts, Exeter will elect three councilmembers in the newly formed districts A, C, and D. 

Porterville and Visalia also have district elections. In November, Visalia will vote for three councilmembers (Area 3, 4, 5) and Porterville will vote for two (Area 1, 2). Other city council races that remain at-large elections include: City of Farmersville, three council members; City of Lindsay, two council members; and City of Woodlake, three council members.

Fire Districts
Strathmore and Woodlake are among two communities in Tulare County who assess residents a property tax for fire protection services. Woodlake Fire District plays an important role in Tulare County’s overall network of fire fighting services, a fact that was relayed by Tulare County Fire Chief Charlie Norman to the Board of Supervisors last month. Norman said Woodlake Fire District has always helped with fires in and around Woodlake and always answered the call to send help to wildfires up and down the state as part of mutual aid agreements for strike teams on major fires. Woodlake Fire District will vote for one commissioner on the November election. 

Strathmore Fire District is one of two entities, the other being the City of Exeter, who contract with Tulare County for fire services. Strathmore will be voting for two commissioners. Orange Cove Fire District will be voting for two commissioners.

Memorial Districts
If you live in a small town, you’ve attended an event at your local memorial building. What you probably don’t know is that some of your neighbors, especially military veterans, are elected to oversee the operation of that building which is funded through local property taxes. 

The following memorial districts will have elections this year: Exeter, two directors – non-veteran; Ivanhoe, two directors – non-veteran; Lindsay/Strathmore, one director – non-veteran, one director – veteran; Porterville, two directors – veteran; Sequoia, one director – non-veteran, two directors – veteran, one director – veteran (short term); South Tulare County, one director – veteran, two directors – non-veteran ; Springville, one director – veteran, two directors – veteran short term, one director – non-veteran, and one director – non-veteran short term; Terra Bella, two directors – non-veteran, and one director– veteran; Three Rivers, one director – non-veteran, and two directors – veteran; Visalia, one director –veteran seat, and one director – non-veteran seat; Woodlake, two directors – veteran.

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