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Tuesday November 3, 2020 — California General Election
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Special District

Santa Clara Valley Water District
Measure S - 2/3 Approval Required

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Election Results


609,100 votes yes (75.06%)

202,399 votes no (24.94%)

100% of precincts reporting (596/596).

863,964 ballots counted.

Shall the measure to renew the Safe, Clean Water and Natural Flood Protection Program which ensures public health and safety by: *protecting drinking water supply, dams from earthquakes and climate change; *reducing pollution, toxins and contaminants in waterways; and *providing flood protection; by renewing Santa Clara Valley Water District's existing parcel tax without increasing rates, averaging $.006 per square foot annually as described in Resolution 20-64 until ended by voters, raising approximately $45,500,000 annually, with qualifying senior exemption, annual audits, independent citizen oversight be adopted?

What is this proposal?

Pros & Cons — Unbiased explanation with arguments for and against

Information provided by League of Women Voters of Santa Clara County

The Question

(requires 2/3 majority to pass): Should the existing Santa Clara Valley Water District parcel tax be extended and amended without increasing rates, until ended by the voters?


The Situation

The Santa Clara Valley Water District is responsible for providing clean water supplies; protecting creeks, watersheds and reservoirs from contaminants; and providing flood protection to Santa Clara County. In 2012, District voters approved the extension of an already existing parcel tax at an average rate of $.006 per square foot. Rates vary based on land use of property and storm water runoff. The current parcel tax permits cost of living increases and exemption for lower income seniors. An independent monitoring committee reviews the implementation and results of the program.

The Proposal

The Measure S incorporates five of the current priorities for use of the tax proceeds: (1) ensure a safe, reliable water supply; (2) reduce toxins, hazards and contaminants in waterways; (3) protect the water supply from earthquakes and natural disasters; (4) restore wildlife habitat and provide open space; (5) provide flood protection to homes, businesses, streets and highways; and adds (6) support public health and public safety for the community. By state law, the District must use the tax proceeds only for the specific purposes stated in the measure and to report annually the funds collected and expended and the status of authorized projects. The law also mandates establishment of an independent oversight committee to monitor the program’s activities, such as is set up for the current parcel tax. Measure S requires an audit by an outside auditor every 5 years. Measure S eliminates the current requirement for a 15-year termination of the tax (sunset clause). However, District voters may repeal Measure S at any time via another ballot measure and, if not repealed, the Board will evaluate the program every 15 years to determine whether the tax should be continued, modified or repealed.

Fiscal effect

The rate structure for the Measure S is the same as the existing parcel tax, based on the size of each parcel, its category of land use (ranging from vacant land to business/commercial) and a factor reflecting storm water runoff. The annual tax for a ¼ acre single family residence would be $67.67 in 2021. Proceeds of the tax are estimated to be about $45.5 million annually. Rates may be adjusted for inflation. Rate increases are allowed to cover costs to recover from natural disasters. Qualifying seniors will be eligible for exemption

Supporters say

  • Measure S does not add a new tax but renews a tax approved in 2012 by 74% of voters.
  • Measure S continues county-wide projects for creek restoration, shoreline protection, environmental clean-up and habitat restoration and pollution reduction of local waterways.
  • Measure S continues and accelerates flood control construction along creeks that pose risk to our communities.
  • Measure S funds can leverage additional funding from federal and state sources.

Opponents say

  • Measure S eliminates the existing 15-year requirement that voters must approve the continuation of the parcel tax while the current parcel tax was approved only 6 years ago and has 8 more years to run.
  •  SCVWD says that because pay-as-you-go funding has resulted in project delays, it would need to borrow money in the first 15 years of the program, creating $331M in debt financing that will need to be repaid by future tax revenue.
  •  Restoring wildlife habitat, one of the priorities from 2012, has been underfunded and would be further reduced under Measure S.
  • The Safe, Clean Water program’s independent monitoring committee is appointed by the Board, calling into question its independence.

Details — Official information

Published Arguments — Arguments for and against

Arguments FOR


Vote YES on Measure S to protect our local supply of safe, clean water in Santa Clara County.




An adequate supply of safe, reliable water is crucial to sustain our economy and quality of life. Measure S upgrades outdated, seismically unsafe pipelines and dams that deliver water countywide.




Measure S funds needed improvements to protect our local water infrastructure and supply from the impact of climate change, drought, earthquakes, flooding and other natural disasters.




Measure S projects also reduce toxins, hazards, and contaminants in our rivers, lakes, and streams,




And Measure S doesn’t increase taxes: it simply renews existing local funding we’ve relied on for 20 years. 74% of voters approved the last renewal in 2012.




Measure S continues work that’s already being done countywide, like creek restoration, shoreline protection, environmental cleanup and habitat restoration. These projects have been essential to protecting our communities from extended drought, increased pollution and climate change.




We simply can’t afford to lose this important funding and put our local water supply at risk.




Vote YES on S for Safe Clean Water and Natural Flood Protection


  • ·         Protect our local drinking water supply;
  • ·         Upgrade aging pipelines, dams to protect against earthquakes and climate change;
  • ·         Reduce pollution, toxins and contaminants in waterways;
  • ·         Provide natural flood protection


Every penny from Measure S will be spent locally to protect our water drinking supply for future generations of Santa Clara County residents.




Measure S requires independent citizen oversight and audits to ensure funds are spent as promised. Measure S also provides an exemption to local seniors.




All Measure S funds will be controlled locally, will go to our local water protection projects and cannot be taken away by the state.




Join local residents, environmental groups, labor, business leaders, and elected officials in protecting our water supply for future generations.




Vote YES on S!


Arguments AGAINST


Vote NO on Measure S. Measure S eliminates accountability and responsiveness to voters. Voters approved the existing parcel tax in 2012 for a 15 year term ending in 2028. Measure S proposes to renew that tax but rather than have an end date, it would continue indefinitely. Vote NO. Valley Water should seek regular voter approval on a specific term such as 15 years. Voters should expect transparency and accountability to ensure future benefits to all of us who depend on the Santa Clara Valley Water District for save clean water and natural flood protection.




Valley Water’s proposed borrowing and spending plans show why we need regular, continued review and approval by voters. For the first fifteen years of the proposed measure all six community preferred priorities have dedicated funding allocations, but in years 16-30 no funding is designated for three of the priorities: No funding designated to “Safe, Reliable Water Supply.” No funding to “Protect our Water Supply for Earthquakes and Natural Disasters.” No funding to “Provide Flood Protection to Homes, Businesses, Schools, Streets and Highways.” Instead there’s a small pool of unallocated funds plus large new debt payments for $310 million in bonds.




Fiscal responsibility requires careful consideration of borrowing impacts on future programs. Valley Water didn’t even meet with the Safe, Clean Water Program Independent Monitoring Committee to review details of the measure nor explain why an additional $310 million in bonds is suddenly needed, in addition to the $800 million of our taxes. Vote NO and insist on fiscal responsibility and accountability to voters.




The Santa Clara Valley Water district has 8 years left on the current parcel tax, plenty of time to resubmit the measure to voters WITH an end date. All of the projects listed have funding under the existing tax. Vote NO.




More information

Videos (1)

— October 12, 2020 League of Women Voters of Cupertino-Sunnyvale
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Who supports or opposes this measure?

Yes on Measure S

Organizations (1)

Elected & Appointed Officials (0)
No on Measure S

Organizations (1)

Elected & Appointed Officials (0)

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