Essential Services Workshop Well Attended
The meeting was well attended with approximately 50+ City staff, Council, and citizens present. The City staff and Council presented a Power Point with information in regards to the general fund, current revenue and expenditures, and general information regarding the proposed measure.
Basically, the measure would call for an additional .75% tax to be added onto the 1% transaction tax Fortuna already receives from the State. The tax rate for Fortuna would go from 8% to 8.75%. Mayor Pro Tem Tami Trent said in simplified terms the tax would cost Fortuna customers approximately .75 for every $100, and this would exclude non taxable items such as food and prescriptions.
Most of the discussion in the room was in regards to ensuring that police services would be a primary goal of this measure. During Chief Dobberstein’s presentation, he indicated Fortuna Police Department currently had the same amount of sworn officers as in the 1980’s (15). In 2012, FOPD actually had 18 sworn officers which allowed for a School Resource Officer, and other specialized positions. Since then, three officer positions have been cut due to funding issues.
Chief Dobberstein said officers currently handle 56 calls for service everyday. In 2015, they handled a total 20,250 calls compared to 9,343 calls in 2002. He explained these 20,000+ calls are being handled by two officers on the street at any one time, leading to reactive, complaint driven enforcement rather than proactive enforcement. This also came up during the open question and answer session when citizens expressed concern over marijuana grows and drug houses not being properly addressed within city limits.
Another issue mentioned was whether or not the measure would have a sunset clause. Several citizens spoke up for and against the idea of a sunset clause. People against it, were concerned if positions and services would be cut at the end of the sunset period while others for it, felt it was important to have an end date if results were not satisfactory.
Several citizens questioned why the Council was not pushing for a ballot measure geared directly for the police department. The Council explained that such a specific measure would require a 2/3 (66%) vote versus a 50% +1 voting result. The Council was concerned that because of the higher percentage required, it would not pass. Also, the Council argued that the estimated $1.2 million revenue from the additional proposed tax, would be more than enough to assist FOPD with their needs as well as other city departments.
The failed 2014 Measure V, “Budget Stabilization Tax,” was also discussed throughout the workshop. Members of the public and Council voiced their opinions as to why it did not pass although similar measures in other cities, were successful that same year. A special Power Point slide addressed several of the rumors and perceived problems plaguing the failed Measure V.
Ultimately, should the measure be placed on the ballot and voted in, the City would like to establish an Advisory Committee comprised of the public, who would review spending requests and make recommendations to the Council. The City stressed they wanted to maintain the public’s trust and felt this was one way to solidify it.
Mayor Sue Long would like to encourage anyone who has questions or an opinion to give her a call at 599-6826 or to contact City Hall.