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RIVERSIDE (CNS) - Measures to extend or add tax levies -- including one that supporters argue is vital to keep the municipality's emergency services available -- were enjoying strong support tonight in various Riverside County cities.
In Banning, 84 percent of voters approved Measure E in a vote-by-mail- only election. The measure will permit the city to continue collecting a 12 percent transient occupancy tax from hotels and motels.
Supporters argued that the tax, which is charged to hotel and motel occupants for overnight stays, is comparable to what many localities in the region impose.
In Desert Hot Springs, Measure F had the backing of 65 percent of voters, with 29 percent of precincts reporting. The proposal calls for the imposition of a $372.68 tax on vacant parcels that are privately held throughout the city.
The city council voted in favor of placing the measure on the ballot following the declaration of a fiscal emergency, under which city hall staffing was cut by two-thirds and many remaining employees' salaries were slashed by 22 percent, according to documents posted to the Riverside County Registrar of Voters' website.
According to supporters, the funds generated from the new parcel tax will be used exclusively to pay for public safety services, including police, fire, animal control and code enforcement. The ``Yes on F'' campaign stated that, without the additional revenue, the city could face bankruptcy and the loss of its police department.
Opponents countered that the tax would be punitive, unfairly targeting owners of unoccupied land.
In Cathedral City, a majority of voters appeared ready to enact Measure B, which will allow for the continuation of a 1 percent sales and use tax first established four years ago. Of 2,288 votes counted by 9:30 p.m., 71 percent favored the ``Fiscal Emergency Tax,'' imposed primarily on retailers for every transaction involving real merchandise.
The ``Yes on B'' camp argued the estimated $4 million generated by the measure would ensure Cathedral City ``maintains our locally controlled police and fire departments and other vital programs.''
In Perris, meanwhile, Measure C was bound for approval, with 65 percent of votes from nearly half of precincts in favor of the bond authorization, under which $40 million in general obligation bonds may be sold in support of the Perris Elementary School District.
Backers noted that local schools are in need of a range of repairs and upgrades, including expansion to accommodate more than 900 enrollees -- 40 percent above what the facilities were designed to handle.
The last local measure on the ballot, D, was also destined for enactment, with 74 percent of voters from one-fifth of precincts affirming it. The proposal asked voters in the Coachella Valley Water District to decide whether members of the Board of Directors should be elected by division, or continue to be elected via a general district-wide vote.
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