Ridgecrest, Ca., A small rural City north of Yucca Valley with similar demographics, with the exception they have a sewer system, had been struggling to pass a sales tax measure for the last five years. Each attempt has divided the community with the elected council members unable or unwilling to sign any pledges where the funds would go because a General Fund Tax cannot be ear marked or dedicated. On June 5, 2012, Measure L passed, barely; Yes votes: 3331/55.5%…..No votes 2668/44.47%.
Measure L was a General Fund tax of 3/4% sales tax, for 5 years, increasing the sales tax rate from 7.25% to 8%. Estimated revenue of $1.5 million revenue per year.
Measure L -“A Public Safety/Essential City Services Measure. To help prevent additional cuts and services, including: city streets and pothole repair:police officers and neighborhood police patrols; 9-1-1 emergency response times; crime prevention and investigation; and other city services requiring a citizen’s oversight committee, annual independent audits, with all funds for the City of Ridgecrest services only, no funds for Sacramento.” Kern County Directory: link
Applications were made available and the “Oversight Committee” was chosen by the Council members against the outcry of several citizens citing cronyism over qualifications to serve. The “Oversight Committee” was given an overview of Government 101 to educate the members and non-members for their roles. The first thing they discovered, the slate was blank and void of any previous balances for police and roads. It was explained to them those funds were moved and they only had authority over the new tax increments.
On January 16, 2013, the Oversight Committee asked for and received ten years of city budgets dating back to fiscal 2004. Vice Chair Phil Salavatore commented, “The biggest surprise was the Measure L revenue that was expected and allocated. It was estimated that $1.5 million would be budgeted from Measure L revenue, with $738,000 going toward streets, $397,000 to the Ridgecrest police department, and a reserve of $365,000. As soon as the ink was dry, there was a police union cost-of-living adjustment, 4 percent for sworn officers and 6 percent for unsworn officers, or $140,000.
He said the amount for RPD went up, and while street maintenance remained the same, the reserve dwindled to $235,000.
The most recent figures however, show an anticipated $1.13 million, with $896,000 reserved for RPD and $238,000 earmarked for street maintenance. The reason is the less-than-expected return on state sales tax revenue.
The reason for the large increase for RPD over streets relates directly to the city council’s decision to cut RPD’s general fund budget and backfill with Measure L money to avoid drastic cuts at the Dec. 19 council meeting. Salvatore said he was only generally satisfied with all the data up to the current year, given that he was still waiting for the ink to dry on the current fiscal year’s budget. The 2013-14 budget has yet to be determined.” For more on this story link
The honeymoon seemed to be wearing off and the Mayor wanted to “Retool” the Oversight committee to give them a new vision. Citing Staff costs that were not factored into Measure L and the shortage of expected sales revenues, the Mayor is seeking to cut the role of the Oversight Committee meeting. Taking his case to a Democratic luncheon it was not well received.
A preview of the Mayor Dan Clark’s “Directive,” which was pulled from yesterday’s Council meeting states the following by their city attorney:
“We conclude that the purpose of the Measure L Committee is to provide an annual report that documents whether or not money collected through Measure L was spent on the purposes identified by Measure L,” Lemieux states. “We conclude the purpose of the committee is not to review or examine other unrelated aspects of the City budget.” The committee serves at the city council’s leisure and that “the city council has authority to remove and replace individual members of the committee before the end of their term by a majority vote of the city council.”
Lemieux notes that since the measure is a general tax fund, “there is no legal requirement that money collected through Measure L be spent on any specific government purpose.” Any requirement to spend money generated by the measure on police and streets is “self-imposed.” Leading up the June 5 elections, the city council and many community members, including Clark, campaigned that the measure would only be used to fund public safety and streets. The committee — then dubbed a Citizens Oversight Committee — was part of the package”.….for the rest of this news article: Ridgecrestca.com link
PS. The City of Ridgecrest spent a total of $40,7 1 3.99 on Measure L. (Estimated annual revenues $1.5 million per year, revised down to $1.3 million due to the economy)
$15,468.99 to Lew Edward Group