The City of Bakersfield is planning to hire about 100 additional police officers and 40 support staff for the Bakersfield Police Department if voters approve the 1 percent sales tax increase that will appear on this November’s ballot. Revenue from the tax increase would fund other improvements to the police department and the city in general as well.
City Manager Alan Tandy announced those plans at the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce's 30th annual State of the City Luncheon, where he and Mayor Karen Goh laid out a roadmap of the city’s direction over the next 12 months.
“Bakersfield has fewer police officers than other comparable cities,” Tandy said during his turn at the podium. “This measure puts more officers on the streets and brings us into a more normal ratio of comparable cities in terms of staffing our police to our population.”
Adding the extra 100 officers and 40 support staff would grow the city’s law enforcement ranks by 25 percent and cost about $17 million.
The tax measure is estimated to bring in about $50 million annually.
To counter frequent complaints that the city’s pension system would eat up most of the funds from the tax increase, Tandy said 13 percent of the funds would go toward paying CalPERS costs for the added staff.
CalPERS costs are expected to rise for current staff by $5 million each year for the next three years, he said.
The city predicts property taxes, expected to rise by $3 million, will help counter rising pension costs, Tandy said, adding that an improved tax base will contribute as well.
“It’s not a one-dimensional thing. There are revenue sources that pay for the cost increases already,” he said.
Along with the added staff, the city plans $17 million in one-time capital improvement projects, including modernized equipment, for BPD.
The remaining tax revenues would be distributed to various city agencies that have goals such as aiding efforts to combat homelessness, improving quality of life and attracting new business to the city.
Tandy also revealed that the Truxtun Avenue Operational Improvements project — road construction at Truxtun and Oak Street — was 52 percent complete and should be done by the end of the month.
Mayor Goh steered clear of the sales tax, instead following up last year's presentation on the city’s efforts to rebrand itself.
“This are beginning to look up,” Goh said. “We’re hearing the sound of a new optimism.”
Among the wide-ranging topics mentioned in Goh’s presentation:
• An estimated 3,128 new jobs in healthcare were expected to become available within the next five years, along with 662 jobs in construction and 301 jobs in energy.
• The city will receive about $3.9 million from the state in one-time funds to target homelessness. The Kern County Homeless Collaborative will receive $2.6 million and the city itself will receive $1.3 million. The funds will create new housing and aid other resources connected to homelessness.
• The city has completed the initial phase of its rebranding project and is going through the data collected from more than 100 interviews and 1,050 community surveys to help the city come up with a new way of presenting itself.