At the May 9th City Council meeting, City Manager John Holt asked the council for guidance on how to move forward with the action of providing funds for the city’s police department.
Holt explained how the city had advised the Citizen’s Advisory Committee to work towards a solution in completing tasks of reviewing the police department’s services.
The committee then reported back to council on how the city should move forward with finding extra funds for the police department based on Police Chief Curt Fleming’s initial requests.
It was through the committee’s findings that they do not feel the police department is adequately funded and that they need more officers. Over 50% of the committee would go on to select “public safety” as the top priority for the community in a survey of its twenty-five members.
Discussion was held amongst the council on Monday about a certain number of taxes that could be applied to finance this circumstance. Out of a possibility of a sales tax, a parcel tax, a transient occupancy tax, and a utility users’ tax, the council discussed their reasoning for selecting a tax to be voted on the ballot for this November or waiting until a further date to extrapolate more on the situation.
It is the council’s hope that they would like to “do it right” when selecting an option to fund the police department and staff more officers than what is currently available.
Chief Curt Fleming was at the meeting and explained to the council that he needed “thirty-two bodies, sworn officers, by today” to have the rate of success that he so desires.
This came at the insistence of Councilman Vong Mouanoutoua in asking Chief Fleming exactly how many officers he would require to properly staff his department.
Mayor Jose Flores stated that there would not be enough time for anything of too much significance to be put on the ballot before November. The council’s deadline to place a measure on the ballot would come in August, and with the amount of polling they would like to do, they don’t believe it would be viable to rush into pushing a tax measure in that period of time.
Flores voiced, “[If] We start polling people and start doing all the good things that has to be done in a political campaign, because this is what this is going to be, we’re going to run out of time.”
Councilman Drew Bessinger believes that a transient occupancy tax would be the best possible option in providing an amount of immediate funds to the police department.
Assuming that a transient occupancy tax passes with the voters, Bessinger believes that the amount of revenue provided by the tax will be able to fulfill the department’s needs for now. However, he along with the rest of the council, do not believe that this will last as a long-term solution.
Mayor Pro-Tem Lynne Ashbeck called a transient occupancy tax a “step in the right direction” but ultimately inclined that the council should wait until 2024 when they can properly place a measure on the ballot to reach voters. The possibility here would be a general tax which only requires a 50% plus one majority approval which takes place in a regularly scheduled general election.
Councilman Bob Whalen’s biggest concern was “being accommodating to the public” and said, “generally we don’t decide until we’ve heard from the public.”
He didn’t want to make a decision solely based on the twenty-five members of the Citizen’s Advisory Committee’s findings before allowing the public as a whole to respond to the situation.
At the completion of the discussion, the council, according to Mayor Flores, advised city staff to try for a transient occupancy tax increase by November of 2022, discussed the possibility of hiring a consultant to run polling, and to seek information on the benefits of a general tax possibly coming in 2024.