Measure N addresses critical public safety requirements
The economic recession significantly impacted the city of Grass Valley and our community. The financial realities resulted in the city making a number of very difficult decisions.
The city’s General Fund Budget has declined from $12.5 million to $10 million. The city has cut 25 percent of its employees. Every department has been impacted, and the level of public services provided to the community has declined. We are experiencing this in police services, fire operations and failure of local roads along with other service reductions.
Sales tax, which makes up 44 percent of these revenues, declined by $1.2 million and property taxes (22 percent of revenues) are down nearly $200,000.
The new economic realities of our region are here to stay for the foreseeable future, and our economic growth will not reach the pre-recession level for years. Without new or additional revenue, core city services will continue to suffer.
The city council has consistently placed a high priority on pubic safety. We have come to a point were we are not financially able to meet that priority. We have nine vacant police officer positions and outdated equipment. The loss of officers means limited traffic enforcement, reduced investigations and lack of special team and enforcement efforts, such as participation in the narcotics task force.
We have fire engines that have passed their useful life and spend weeks and even months in the shop for repairs. The reduction in limited firefighters means 10 to 15 percent of the time our fire department cannot meet minimum staffing levels.
We receive numerous complaints about the condition of our streets and the damages done to vehicles. While financially the reduction in services was a necessity, we are now at a point where we cannot afford to continue with the decline in these core public services.
Measure N was prepared to address the community’s public safety needs through providing funding for police officers, firefighters, essential equipment and road construction. The levy of a one half of a percent (.05 percent) sales tax will provide needed revenues for our community safety.
Measure N has a built-in accountability structure providing for an annual audit of the additional sales tax revenue. Measure N provides for a sunset of the sales tax in 10 years, or less if the economy improves. A citizens’ oversight committee will be appointed to review the use of the new revenue.
In preparing Measure N, the city included a priority spending plan. This includes hiring five police officers and replacement of worn-out equipment. This will expand the detective unit and places one additional officer on each shift.
It will allow for special assignments (i.e. traffic and drug enforcement) and enhanced police patrols. The replacement of vehicles, radios and other equipment is necessary for effective police work.
The plan incorporates hiring three firefighters and one fire captain and replacement of fire engines and necessary equipment. This will provide for minimum staffing allowing for the four firefighters necessary to initiate a fire rescue under OSHA standards.
The replacement of a single engine can cost $500,000 or more. The department is fast approaching the need to replace two engines and must plan for a third.
Finally, we will have dedicated funding to repair a number of our local streets. While our need for road repair, reconstruction and construction is much greater than the funds available, these funds will provide for a number of streets to be improved. This allows for safer driving conditions, improves the capacity of our streets and keeps streets from falling into greater disrepair.
Measure N will not replace the revenue decline experienced by the city. It will not bring back all of the positions cut from the City’s budget. It will not address every pothole.
Measure N will restore essential police and fire personnel levels. Measure N will provide for the replacement of basic, essential equipment (i.e. vehicles, radios, fire engines). Measure N will address some of the significant street improvements so needed in our community.
Measure N provides a reasonable, limited and accountable means of addressing critical public safety requirements. The current and future health of our community and the quality of life that we enjoy is dependent upon the provision of basic core city services, police, fire and streets.
Jan Arbuckle is the mayor of Grass Valley.
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