20181115-bc-digging (copy)

In this file photo, Bakersfield 3 mothers Diane Byrne, Jane Parrent and Cheryl Holsonbake watch Bakersfield police at an excavating site just east of Highway 99 at Houghton Road in November.

A new effort to bring a sales tax increase before Kern County voters has begun. The mothers of the Bakersfield 3 are working to get a voter initiative off the ground.

The mothers say all the money raised by the tax increase will go to Kern County public safety departments.

“This isn’t about raising taxes, it’s about saving our community,” said Diane Byrne, mother of James Kulstad, who was killed in April 2018 and whose death has been linked to another death and a disappearance that have collectively become known as the Bakersfield 3. “We’re in a public safety crisis, and the only thing that is going to save ourselves is us.”

Since the death of their children, Byrne, along with Cheryl Holsonbake and Jane Parrent, the mothers of the other two Bakersfield 3 victims, Micah Holsonbake and Baylee Despot, have advocated for better public safety services countywide.

The mothers successfully lobbied the Board of Supervisors to provide $30,000 to an anonymous tip line, Secret Witness, effectively saving the program, and they have spoken up frequently on behalf of victims’ rights.

They have become a highly visible presence in the community as the cases have become more well known. In January, the mothers appeared on “Dr. Phil,” which brought the Bakersfield 3 to a wide audience.

Now, the mothers have turned their efforts to adding a sales tax measure to the March 2020 ballot.

“We simply must speak up, not only for our voiceless children, but for the public record, and to implore our residents to act now to repair the public safety crisis in our sheriff and coroner’s department,” Holsonbake said at a supervisors meeting on Tuesday.

To qualify for the ballot, an initiative needs to gather around 13,000 signatures. Byrne said she and the other mothers will begin to formulate strategies for qualifying the sales tax increase for the ballot.

Last year, Sheriff Donny Youngblood convinced supervisors to place a 1 percent sales tax increase on the November ballot. The tax would have impacted only sales in unincorporated county areas.

The county estimated it would have raised $35 million annually for the county. However, Youngblood’s sales tax measure was not designated solely to public safety departments as the Bakersfield 3 measure is expected to be.

“We want to have the best law enforcement in the state,” Byrne said. “We need this. We desperately need this.”

In November, only around 35 percent of people voted “yes” on the sales tax increase, with around 65 percent voting against.

Youngblood recently said a sales tax increase could lift the Sheriff’s Office out of the dire straits it finds itself in. Sheriff’s officials say low salaries have resulted in droves of deputies leaving for other departments, putting a strain on those that stay.

The situation has been described as a crisis by many in the law enforcement system.

Discussions between county officials and the mothers are slated to take place soon, but few details on the sales tax ordinance have been finalized, including the percent increase of the tax increase.

However, Byrne said unless something changed, the sales tax would likely be a 1 percent increase, taking the unincorporated county sales tax rate from 7.25 percent to 8.25 percent.

If enough signatures are gathered to qualify for the ballot, it would need to garner 50 percent of the vote plus one in order to pass.

(16) comments


Another tax? NOPE. Not on public safety, education, roads, nothing. Enough is enough. For once, live within your means. County is upset that theirs got voted down and the city's passed. Gas tax is going up again tomorrow. They are now asking for a 5 cent per gallon federal increase for the roads. We can't get pot holes repaired now. Wasn't the last several increases supposed to fix roads? You really think this will just go for public safety?


Took the words right out of my mouth. A penny saved is a penny earned.


If you live in the unincorporated areas of the county and you shop in Bakersfield you're already paying the sales tax. Many incorporated towns in Bakersfield have a higher sales tax than the unincorporated areas.


I'm glad they're putting this on the ballot. That way I will get to vote "NO" again.

Donna Semar

Do not market this as a 1 cent sales tax. Be completely honest. It's a 1% sales tax.


Will be voting NO on this. To much taxes as it is. Gas tax is criminal.


Add a provision whereby none of the money can fund pensions and you have a chance. The public is tired of paying for high school educated workers retiring between 50 and 55 (say even 60) and lumping overtime and other bennies into their pot. They have tilted the system to where it is unsustainable and now want us to bail them out. Not on my dime!


I agree! Getting fed up with this.


If the pay, pension, and bennies are so attractive, people would be beating down the doors for the jobs you reference, but the reports I've seen indicate that's not the case. If for some reason, a person doesn't support fair (i.e. market competitive) salaries and benefits for "high school educated workers", otherwise known as local safety service workers, then said person should be looking in the mirror next time that person expects an emergency response of some type. And something doesn't add up if the pay and benefits are so over-the-top wonderful, but nobody wants the job. Hmmm.


Yeah, County Fire had 2,700 applicants the last time they hired for firefighters.


Maybe you missed this article: As deputy ranks dwindle, Kern County Sheriff's Office reaches a staffing 'crisis' https://www.bakersfield.com/delano-record/as-deputy-ranks-dwindle-kern-county-sheriff-s-office-reaches/article_0a36edc2-96bf-11e9-9ec2-c3e94d4ce59a.html


@churchillis1..... this isn’t about the hose draggers primarily, this is about the sheriff’s office. Which maybe you didn’t know, only graduated 5 hirees this last academy. No one wants to be a cop these days, and the ones that are want to be equitably. Rosedale goes uncovered most of the week and response times are horrible due to the staffing levels.




And they hired three of their own children. Nepotism is rampant at KCFD (and the city and throughout the State).


You must be jealous of those high school educated workers. If they were all college educated, would you change your mind?


You seem very informed. So obviously you are aware of why there is a “structural deficit” and why “pension cost increases” is cited. So you realize that the BOS offered a better pension to public safety because it gave them a better pension plan to boot, and you’re aware that prior to the economic crisis of 2008 the Board of Supervisors were foregoing their principle payments to the retirement and spending it on one time purchases. You also know obviously that they were letting it ride on the interest and then when the markets crashed all that money was due now. Like every other public entity bonds had to be purchased to pay back that “borrowed” money. Those bonds were backloaded, kind of like an interest only mortgage so the big payments are due now, and the next couple years. You are also aware that the pensions went through many state legislative reforms mandating certain percentages of funding and basing contributions on more conservative return on investment figures. So if a rate of return prognosis goes down even a 1/4 of a percent it can mean millions. I’m positive you’ve done your research and you realize that even with the “structured deficit” KERN COUNTY general fund contributions to the fire department are at an all time low. More than 90% of department funding comes from the fire fund and contractual cities and agencies. But even better, you already pay the 1% or 1 cent for every dollar tax on anything you buy in the city limits. That the City fire department even before their tax is paid more than 10% more on average. So being as obviously informed and educated as you all seem to be, if you live in the County but work, shop, eat, and purchase in the city limits you find that increase for city services. Why would you pay that and vote to deny yourself the same level of service. The city tax specifically stated it would not go to salaries and benefits. But you knew that right.

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