Orange Cove’s Measure O falls short once more

Orange Cove sees no change in results after recount of Measure O, the special tax that helps fund police and fire services in the city

A Fresno County Registrar of Voters employee explains the recount procedure to an election worker during the recount of Measure O, a special tax for the city of Orange Cove's police and fire services, held at the Fresno County Elections Warehouse in Fresno April 10, 2024. Orange Cove City Manager Daniel Parra requested the recount because the measure failed by just a few votes. (Serena Bettis)
A Fresno County Registrar of Voters employee explains the recount procedure to an election worker during the recount of Measure O, a special tax for the city of Orange Cove's police and fire services, held at the Fresno County Elections Warehouse in Fresno April 10, 2024. Orange Cove City Manager Daniel Parra requested the recount because the measure failed by just a few votes. (Serena Bettis)
Serena Bettis
Published April 12, 2024  • 
11:00 am

ORANGE COVE – Despite a nail-biting recount, Orange Cove’s Measure O has fallen short of victory once again, leaving city officials hopeful for a revival in the November election.

Results from Measure O, the special tax voted on during the March 5 primary election, remained the same after the Fresno County Registrar of Voters conducted a recount over April 10 and 11. Ballots cast in favor of the measure made up 66.4% of the vote, just two votes shy of reaching a two-thirds majority. 

“We’re not done yet; it’ll come back again in November,” City Manager Daniel Parra said. “Even though it got defeated, 66.4% of the community wanted it.” 

Parra requested the recount on April 3 with the hope that a closer look at Orange Cove ballots would find something missed by the county’s electronic counting machines, such as a ballot that was counted as an undervote — meaning someone voted for other items on the ballot but skipped Measure O — but was actually a vote in favor of the measure. 

The manual tally instead found that out of the 538 ballots cast by Orange Cove voters, eight votes were undervotes, 352 votes were in favor of the measure and 178 votes were against the measure. Just 16.6% of registered voters in Orange Cove participated in the election. 

First introduced in 2014, the measure is a special parcel tax that funds police and fire services within the city and brings in approximately $260,000 every year. The police department typically receives 80% of the money that Measure O collects and the local fire district receives 20%. 

Measure O is a property tax that places a flat rate on parcels depending on their zoning designation. It annually taxes single-family residential and agricultural parcels $95, multi-family residential parcels $65 per unit, commercial parcels $495 and industrial parcels $750.

Parra previously told the Mid Valley Times that Measure O’s failure to pass means that the city will likely eliminate two police officer positions when it forms its budget for the upcoming 2024-25 fiscal year, which begins on July 1. 

Those two positions are currently unfilled due to officers transferring to other departments, meaning no one will be laid off, but it does reduce the city’s already small police force. The fiscal year 2023-24 budget for the police department included 15 sworn officer positions and four non-sworn positions. 

A sunset clause in the original measure put an expiration date of Nov. 30, 2024, on the tax. Orange Cove first tried to renew the measure during the November 2023 election, failing by just over 2%, and hoped that it would pass this March so there would not be a gap in funding. 

The measure on the primary election ballot took out the expiration date so the city would not have to go through this process again. 

The city will continue to try to renew the measure, with the next opportunity coming up during the presidential election in November. While the two-thirds requirement can make special taxes difficult to pass, Parra said that “the citizens deserve public safety, they deserve to feel safe in the community, so it needs to be done.”

Serena Bettis
General Assignment Reporter