While my elected colleagues recognize the current funding for public safety is inadequate my request to review all possible funding mechanisms including consulting our citizens about a public safety tax has thus far been rejected. Unfortunately, the funds needed to meet our public safety needs from our current funds are not there. At the last council meeting my colleagues added over $400,000 to next year’s budget for a recurring expense “hoping they can find the funds for the new expense.”
Public safety is a local government funded service which people cannot provide for themselves. Sometimes, after sharpening the pencil and reviewing all funding options, it may become necessary for me to support a local supplemental tax. Although a public safety tax is generally the most common mechanism to expand public safety services, it is not the only revenue strategy that I would propose.
Everyone knows I resist taxes and fees, unless essential to public safety. Before I would even consider taking such a step, I will encourage the Council to engage the community in a discussion about other revenue generating strategies that could allow us to support the expansion of public safety.
Those strategies could include:
1. Removing the cap on business license fees, thereby eliminating what essentially results in a discounted fee for the largest retailers and manufacturers, who often pay the same tax as some of our smallest mom and pop businesses.
2. Increasing the Transient Occupancy Fee added to the nightly room rate charged by hoteliers operating within the community. This fee increase would more closely offset the impacts to public safety such as the need for a ladder truck to fight fires in high rise building.
3. Pursue through the State Legislature an offset for the impacts of California State University Stanislaus upon public safety, given that CSUS pays no property tax but receives a full spectrum of Turlock City Public Safety services, which are supported by property tax. While the fire department provides all fire services to CSUS, the police department and dispatchers support CSUS Campus Police with specialized and advanced law enforcement services. The benefit of a State offset is enjoyed by other college communities such as Cal Poly, SLO.
4. Reinstate the utility user’s surcharge, which was terminated years ago. The surcharge generally offsets the impact on public safety, wherein public safety supports the security and safety of the utility systems infrastructure (sewer, water and telephone).
Although I have had little success in agenizing my thoughts for how to meet the challenges we all face, I am committed to having my ideas considered on how to protect our citizens in an open and public manner; and will present my ideas to Council at our next meeting, April 10 at 5 p.m., for future discussion.
I look forward to not only discussing my ideas on how to fund public safety but more importantly encourage our police chief, fire chief, fire and police associations, dispatchers, firefighters, other City employees and our citizens to work with me and my colleagues to finally address all issues necessary to make Turlock the safest city in the country.