Money would pay for 13 additional police officers, new fire station
Staff of General Builders Supply and Andy’s Sports & Design present a $1,400 check Thursday to the Madera Police Officers Association during the Coffee With a Cop outreach event at Starbucks. T-shirts are being sold locally to show support for law enforcement with proceeds to benefit police activities. Hats are also planned. (Courtesy of Cpl. Shawn Bushey)
The Madera City Council has decided to float a tax measure on the general election ballot Nov. 8 to raise money to pay for public safety enhancements and to repair the streets.
The levy would be a .05 percent sales tax, equal to 50 cents on each $100 spent in the city.
City staff members estimate some $3.5 million in additional money for the city would be raised the first year, and would provide enough money to hire 13 new police patrol officers and purchase equipment for them to use, construction of a third city fire station and provide money for repairs of city infrastructure.
The vote to introduce an ordinance to put the tax on the ballot, taken at Wednesday night’s council meeting after a public hearing, was unanimous.
Another vote must be taken in September.
The tax would be a general tax, as opposed to a special tax.
A general tax requires a simple majority to pass, while a special tax requires two-thirds majority.
While the money from a general tax should be used for the purposes for which it was intended — such as public safety and infrastructure, in this case — it can be used for other purposes should future councils decide it is necessary.
That isn’t the case with a special tax, the use of which is restricted to the purposes for which it was passed.
The city hired a consultant in February to research the viability of such a tax measure. A report by the consultant, TBWB Strategies, indicated widespread support for the tax — well over 50 percent.
However, the margin for approval of a special tax would be plus or minus 4 percent, which city officials felt was too narrow.
Thus the decision was made to float the measure for a general tax, requiring only a simple majority.
About 500 households were surveyed.
During the public hearing, most spoke in favor of the tax measure, although some thought it should be a special tax instead of a general tax.
“I will work my behind off to get this tax passed, if it is a special tax,” said Bill Jones, former commander of the Madera Post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. “But if it is a general tax, I will work my behind off to make sure it fails.” He said he did not trust future councils to use the money for what it was meant for by those who voted for it.
Councilman Andy Medellin said the need for the measure is greater now that the effects of Proposition 47 and AB 109 are being felt by letting more prisoners back on the streets earlier.
Mayor Rob Poythress, who will leave the council at the end of this year to become a member of the Madera County Board of Supervisors, said he would like to see safeguards.
“In my case, I want to make sure it goes toward public safety,” Poythress said.
Dan Foss, a police detective and president of the Madera Police Officers Association, said he had “complete confidence in this council to put the funds toward police and fire.”
Madellin said he was confident the city budget process would hold future councils accountable for using the money.
Police Chief Steve Frazier said “the margin of error for passage of a special election was just too tight.”
Councilman Derek Robinson said part of the problem is that people from Madera shop in Fresno and leave their sales tax dollars there.
“Fresno is draining us dry,” Robinson said. “But people and businesses won’t move here if we aren’t a safe city. That’s why we need this tax.”
In other business, the council:
Decided to abandon plans to develop a trail on the north shore of the Fresno River after residents whose property abuts where the trail would run objected. A spokesman for the residents, Joe Alioto, said he and his neighbors were concerned they would lose privacy, that the traffic on the trail would create noise and trash, and that there were security concerns.
Voted to adopt “In God We Trust” as the city’s motto to hang someone where in the council chambers.