Most of Keyes will go dark at night or its residents will pay five times as much in street lighting taxes.
Those are the two choices heading into a hearing tonight, when people can speak on the topic and while ballots on a service fee increase are counted.
Under a Keyes Community Services District plan, yearly street lighting assessments would immediately increase from $10 to $46.56, with subsequent raises of about a dollar a year until reaching $51.09 in 2014.
The fee hasn't increased in 18 years and covers less than 25 percent of costs.
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"Absent the increase, the district will not be able to operate a large majority of the existing public street lighting," reads a letter to ratepayers.
The election process ending tonight is different from Measure P in June 2008, when voters were asked to double rates. District leaders mistakenly thought it passed with 55.31 percent "yes" votes and billed accordingly before realizing months later that they needed two-thirds approval, or 66.67 percent.
This time, owners of Keyes' 1,235 parcels will decide whether to quintuple rates, but the district needs just 50 percent approval plus one vote. If someone owns two parcels, he or she gets two votes. Only ballots cast by tonight's hearing will count, and the majority rules.
Keyes nearly turned off its streetlights in October before Stanislaus County supervisors approved a $42,000 grant.
The district for years has plugged street lighting deficits using money from its general fund, which relies on water and sewer fees. But the district is out of extra money, the letter reads.
Tonight's vote count is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. in the Keyes Community Services District office at 5601 Seventh St.
Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2390.