Kern County supervisors had a choice to either allow a question on the November ballot which would ask voters in unincorporated Kern County to raise the sales tax by 1 percent, or risk a severe talent drain from the Sheriff’s Office.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the Board of Supervisors chose to keep the possibility of a sales tax increase alive.

At least for now.

Supervisors voted 4-0 to direct county counsel to draft the question that could appear on the ballot in November, potentially raising the sales tax in the unincorporated county from 7.25 percent to 8.25 percent.

Fifth District Supervisor Leticia Perez was absent from the meeting.

Facing an Aug. 10 deadline, the supervisors have one scheduled meeting left, on July 24, to decide on giving unincorporated county voters the opportunity to raise their sales tax 1 cent for every dollar spent.

Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood brought the proposal to the supervisors. He said his department needs the funds to bolster the ranks of deputies, which have been depleted after years of lean budgets.

Complicating the matter is a measure already approved by the Bakersfield City Council that could result in a 1 percent sales tax increase for city transactions.

If passed, the city plans to spend the money partially on public safety measures.

Youngblood said at the meeting the city could potentially go on a hiring spree with the sales tax funds, possibly bringing on an additional 50 to 60 officers for the city force.

Bakersfield city police are paid more than sheriff’s deputies, and Youngblood worried a large portion of the city’s new recruits could be taken from the Sheriff’s Office if the county did not have the means to offer all employees, from the undersheriff down, a 10 percent to 15 percent raise, which would cost an estimated $10 million to $15 million each year.

He also said he wanted to bring in more deputies to fill 50 to 75 vacant positions the department maintains each year.

Without additional resources, there might not be enough bodies to staff substations in far-flung parts of the county, increasing response times in areas that already complain of long waits after calls for service.

“This is a need that has to be addressed now or we’re going to be several years in rebuilding and recovery,” he said.

The tax measure, which would only affect unincorporated county areas and would not overlap with the city’s tax, would bring in an estimated $35 million for the county annually.

The funds could only be spent on projects in the unincorporated county areas, and the money from the tax would be collected in the county’s general fund, to be distributed at the supervisors’ discretion.

At the meeting, the proposal drew sharp criticism from supervisors, who nevertheless went on to vote in favor of allowing it to move forward.

“I think we’re all frustrated with the fact this timeline we have here is very pressed,” said 2nd District Supervisor Zack Scrivner. “The timeframe is certainly short to make a decision.”

The Bakersfield City Council voted to move forward on a ballot measure after an extensive public outreach campaign, which included presentations to local groups, a survey of local voters, and the provision that an independent oversight committee would watch over the funds.

The entire process took months from beginning to end.

The county is speeding through its own process in a matter of weeks.

“I don’t think transparency exists. I don’t think we’ve vetted this,” said Supervisor Mick Gleason. “I’m not saying, and I’m not suggesting, that there isn’t a bona fide need for a tax increase. What I’m saying is I don’t like the way this is rolling out.”

The supervisors will have two weeks to digest the proposal before their next scheduled meeting, when county counsel will provide suggested ballot language.

The supervisors will need a two-thirds majority vote to bring the measure to the ballot.

If it gets to the ballot, only voters in unincorporated Kern County will see the question, and it would be up to them to decide on the increase.

Sam Morgen can be reached at 661-395-7415. Follow him on Twitter: @smorgenTBC.

(4) comments

RICHARDFITZWELL

Quick overview for you. The KCSO is one of the lowest paid law enforcement agencies in the state. Yet Bakersfield is a top ten city in the state. Little Shafter PD is the highest paid agency in the county. KCSO is hemorrhaging bodies to other departments for better pay, benefits, and morale. This is the reason for the horrible response times, and lack of coverage. The county BOS does not care one bit about the citizens they represent, otherwise they would give the funds necessary to fix the problem. It is unfortunate that we must be further taxed to possibly start addressing the problem, but I see it as a necessary evil. Also, don’t be fooled by the outlandish salary totals on transparent California. Only look at the regular pay to determine wages. The OT is because the department is short staffed and the deputies are mandatoried and over worked.

Sidebar

I live in a county pocket within Bakersfield, and if this proposal appears on the ballot, I will vote NO. The sheriff has made it clear that the new funds will be used primarily to provide salary increases of 10-15% for KCSD sworn personnel. Alas, the sheriff has farmed out patrol duties in my area to the CHP, which equates to no patrolling in our area whatsoever. So a doubling of deputies on the street wouldn't help help my area. Moreover, this new revenue source is destined for the general fund, where accountability has historically been questionable. While these funds would be designated for use in the county pockets exclusively, the Supervisors would retain discretion over any expenditures. Thus, I find NO benefit from an additional 1% sales tax to the majority of Bakersfield residents who, like me, reside in pockets not served by either KCSD or BPD.

REMUDA

BTW . . . y'all know that the 4.0 vote to 'consider' was the required 2/3 (4 of 5 supermajority) vote required for ALL money (GOV CODE SECTION 6250-6270 ) deals . . . as this continues.

REMUDA

1¢ . . . ? $0.01 . . . ? 1% of a dollar . . .? A penny . . .? "More Money . . . Faster Horses . . . Younger Women . . . Older Whiskey . . .?" Why not. like in England, can we not do a whole penny . . . when a 'Ha'penny' will do . . .?

Let's see what "The Language" is on the ballot (since WE now will have a choice) as it will do 8.5¢ in 'The County' and 9.5¢ overall in Bakersfield (not overlap with the city’s ? Bet me . . . !). " . . . sharp criticism . . . ? And what was that "sharp criticism" . . . ? Timeline? Rolling out? Hey, if we get to vote, ok?

And so I will vote "NO". More body cams in Bako ok, but the KCSO needs are very subtle and unclear. Check out https://transparentcalifornia.com/ for salaries on both law and all admins to make your choice . . . as I have. And the "NO" .s have it . . . .! Nay . . .! "Neigh's" are good also . . . as I go out to feed 'em this morning!

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