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County property owners may be asked to pay for a new mosquito control program

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SLO County property owners may be asked to approve a new tax assessment to pay for controlling disease-spreading insects and rodents.

The Board of Supervisors on Nov. 27 approved the idea of a survey to determine whether a new tax would win approval from property owners. The extra assessment for a county-run vector control program would be about $10 a year for a single-family home, according to a staff report.

The supervisors' action was a response to a June report by the SLO County grand jury that recommended the county educate the public about the need for additional mosquito abatement and control and try to determine if voters would approve a tax assessment to pay for it.

Mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, and rodents would be the target of the proposed program, with a yearly cost of $925,000, the staff report stated.

County mosquito-control efforts to reduce West Nile Virus--a disease that can be transmitted by mosquitoes--have already shown results. In 2005, 13 horses were found to have the virus, down to six in 2006, and just one this year. The number of dead birds with West Nile fell from 41 in 2005 to six this year. One human was diagnosed with the virus in 2006.

The main focus of county efforts has been trapping adult mosquitoes, which can fly up to 10 miles, supervisors were told. There was no discussion about what a future vector control program would include, such as eliminating mosquito breeding areas or using pesticides.

Holding an election on a new tax assessment for the program will cost $240,000, supervisors were told.

If all registered voters in the county--including tenants--are allowed to vote on the assessment, it must pass by a two-thirds majority. But if the voting is limited to property owners--who may or may not be county residents--the assessment can be approved by a normal majority, or 50 percent plus one.

Supervisors decided to limit an election on the assessment to property owners.

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