FREMONT — It may never be the land of big government, but Fremont residents are showing they're not afraid of a little tax hike.
Less than two months after voters overwhelmingly approved increasing the tax on hotel guests, property owners have voted to add to their property tax bills in order to join the vermin-fighting Alameda County Vermin Control District.
Approximately two-thirds of Fremont's voting property owners supported joining the district, according to figures of a mail-in ballot released Tuesday.
Only 23.87 percent of eligible voters returned ballots, which were mailed out in October and had to be returned by Dec. 9.
Out of 52,813 ballots mailed to Fremont property owners, only 12,606 were returned. The issue — which was weighted so the votes of holders of large tracts of land would count more than the votes of those with smaller tracts — needed a simple majority to pass.
The weighted tally was 66.35 percent for joining the district and 33.65 percent against. The annexation is scheduled to be ratified by the Alameda County Board of Supervisors next month.
Voters in Emeryville also approved joining the district, which, starting July 1, will include every city in Alameda County.
Vector control services will be available to Fremont residents immediately, Division Chief Lucia Hui said, even though the district won't receive the new tax revenue until next December.
The tax is expected to generate $614,000, which the district says will pay for three Fremont vector control officers, their equipment and a share of a district biologist position. Those positions should be filled by the end of next year or soon after, when the district has started collecting the tax, Hui said.
Before November, Fremont voters had last passed a tax increase in 1997, for its paramedic program.
In an odd twist, the City Council, which in three of the past five years has asked voters to approve tax hikes, opposed joining the vector control district. Though council members had been ambivalent about the proposal, they cast "no" votes for city-owned properties that now will be part of the district.
The Alameda County Board of Supervisors asked the district to try to include both Fremont and Emeryville after it raised the tax rate last year — the first hike in more than a decade — to help replenish its budget reserve.
Fremont, which does not have as significant a rodent problem as Oakland or Berkeley, opted not to join the district when it was formed in 1984. Last fiscal year, Fremont spent just $315 to fight vermin, the cost of removing several beehives from city property, city records show.
But district officials say the need for vector control is greater than realized.
Between Oct. 17, when the ballots were mailed out, and Nov. 17, the district received 50 calls for service from Fremont residents, Hui said.
Vector control responds to complaints and performs studies about public health threats such as rats, raccoons, skunks, wasps, yellow jackets and ticks. In many cases, it offers tips on solving infestations, but for some matters, such as a pesky yellow jacket or skunk problem, the district does the exterminating free of charge.
For information about its services, call the district at 510-567-6800.