It wasn’t a packed house but there was some interest in a special Measure S Community Meeting hosted Thursday, Feb. 13 at the Escalon Community Center.
City Manager Tammy Alcantor, Mayor Robert Swift and Police Chief Mike Borges all offered an overview of the proposal, with the measure going before the voters in the March 3, 2020 primary election.
City Councilman Peter Krumeich also took the microphone to offer his thoughts about the plan and questions were accepted from the audience following the brief presentation.
As proposed, and as presented in the community meeting, that Measure S initiative would be a half-cent sales and use tax, with all proceeds directly benefitting police services in the community. The uses could include paying for officers, adding new equipment, attending training, replacing outdated equipment and more.
The measure would need a two-thirds super majority, as it is for a dedicated use. It also has a 10-year sunset provision. If approved by voters on March 3, it would take effect in October this year and expire on Sept. 30, 2030.
The funds are estimated at $280,000 per year that would be generated from the sales and use tax, a formula that city officials said was preferred over property tax because anyone purchasing goods in the city would be contributing to the tax.
Overall goal is to make sure the police department continues to have an adequate level of staffing, updated equipment and mandatory training to enhance the safety and security of the city and its residents. The added revenue – which would be in addition to the amount of money set aside for police services in the city budget – could also be used to add a code enforcement officer and a traffic officer.
It won’t replace the current general fund spending allocated by the city, said officials, with the Measure S revenue an addition to the already existing funds.
Those attending generally spoke in favor of the measure and several said they agreed with the sales tax idea as opposed to property tax. Alcantor was asked whether she has gotten any feedback from merchants and she said there hasn’t really been any; the half-cent would add a nickel to a $10 purchase and would add 50 cents to a $100 purchase.
The main concerns voiced were using the tax money for other areas of city operations but Alcantor said that won’t happen.
“It won’t be co-mingled with the general fund,” she said.
Instead, the Measure S money would go into a special account specifically for the police department.
Escalon Police Officers Association President, Sgt. Gustavo Flores, said that organization supports the measure and will be getting out into the community to knock on doors, providing information and seeking voter support.
Krumeich told those attending that it wasn’t an easy decision for the council to make, since a tax will mean more money paid by residents, but the half-cent sales tax seemed to be the best fit and will allow the department to maintain a staffing level of at least two officers on duty at all times.
“I’m a volunteer here in town,” offered Dave Willis, part of the police department’s volunteer unit. “I have seen what these guys and these ladies do and believe me, I hate taxes, but I am voting for this, an extra officer out there would certainly help. I hate taxes but this is one, if I could vote for it ten times, I would.”