What's the fastest way for a Kern County Sheriff's deputy to get a raise these days? Answer: Get hired by the Bakersfield Police Department.
What's the fastest way for the Bakersfield Police Department to hire away a Kern County Sheriff's deputy? Answer: Have city voters support Measure N and county voters deny Measure I.
The two foregoing unfunny jokes were brought to you by reality, which will play out on Nov. 7.
If the city sales tax increase passes and the county sales increase fails, we'll have what Kern County Supervisor Mike Maggard calls a "nightmare scenario": The BPD, which already poaches Sheriff's deputies on a regular basis, will have something approaching carte blanche.
"It would devastate us," Sheriff Donny Youngblood told me Tuesday. "Twenty-five (deputies) have applications over at BPD now, already."
The sheriff hires them, trains them and seasons them in the field for a year or two and then, wham!
Each local ballot initiative would raise the sales tax by 1 percent within its respective area, from 7.25 percent to 8.25 percent.
Voters who live within Bakersfield's irregular city borders will be asked to consider Measure N, which would fortify the city treasury with an additional $50 million per year. Voters who live in areas of county jurisdiction, including towns like Oildale, Lamont, Mojave, Rosamond and a big swath of unincorporated but densely populated Rosedale, will be asked to consider Measure I, which would bolster county coffers to the tune of an annual $35 million.
Because revenues from these taxes would go into the two general funds, the ballot measures will require just 50 percent of the vote, plus one, rather than the two-thirds required of taxes earmarked for specific departments or purposes. But in the case of both measures, law enforcement is likely to receive the lion's share.
If voters approve, both agencies would be able to hire new officers and possibly boost the pay of the ones they have on staff already. They wouldn't be doing it out of largesse. They'd be doing it to recruit, retain and remain competitive.
That'll be especially vital for the sheriff, who can't pay as much as Chief Lyle Martin, his counterpart at the Bakersfield Police Department.
"The primary place they'll hire officers from is the Sheriff's Department," Maggard said. "We need to pass this (measure) so they won't be tempted to leave."
The Kern County Taxpayers Association has already endorsed Measure N, but only after studying it thoroughly and asking city officials to do the same.
"We spent about four months and 13 meetings with various council members discussing this," KernTax executive director Michael Turnipseed said Tuesday. "We had three with (City Manager Alan) Tandy alone."
Before KernTax would issue that endorsement, "we wanted (to know) some specific things that were very nontraditional," Turnipseed said. "We needed to have a seat at the table with the city."
KernTax wanted assurances that the city's tax revenue would address "not just homelessness but the cause of homelessness, which is poverty," Turnipseed said. "We wanted to see funding for economic development. We wanted to see a focus on east Bakersfield because a lot of crime is just commuting from east Bakersfield to west Bakersfield. We need economic development in east Bakersfield."
In the end, KernTax was sufficiently satisfied.
Now, how about Measure I? Stay tuned. KernTax is scheduled to meet week after next to decide.
Youngblood, recently elected to a fourth term as sheriff, has already made his case to the influential tax-watching nonprofit.
"The last several years, we've gotten smaller and smaller," he said. "We would leave positions vacant to make our budget."
The department has already lost 52 employees this year after bringing on 64 new hires. In the last five years, 144 deputies have transferred to other agencies, with none coming in from other jurisdictions.
Youngblood decided he had to act, and Measure I is the result.
"I was the driving force," Youngblood admitted, somewhat reluctantly. "This has been coming on for several years. I wasn't going to sit back and let it happen."
Well, he could just sit back. And eventually, if he serves long enough, he might find himself running an agency made up entirely of K-9s and BPD rejects. No joke.