Serving the community since 1970

5% hike seen in fire, police

The city would see a 5% increase in the cost of its contracts with the Kern County Sheriff’s Department, City Manager Daniel Ortiz-Hernandez told the City Council Tuesday night.

“This amounts to an additional $199,000 to $200,000” per year, Ortiz-Hernandez told the virtual meeting.

Nevertheless, “it would be cost-prohibitive for the city to have its own police force,” Mayor Tilo Cortez said.

While the budget workshop was available online through Zoom, some attendees were unable to use the link provided in the board packet and had to resort to listening without being able to see what was being presented on the screen.

One of the projects discussed by the council was to convert the original farm labor housing to an animal shelter. “Building a new animal shelter could cost the city $1.2 million,” Ortiz-Hernandez said. “The renovation of the current farm labor housing complex could cost half that, $680,000.”

Ortiz-Hernandez said the city can expect to see a reduction in revenue, as residents are shopping less. He said the city’s revenue is based on sales tax, use tax and fees charged for city services.

“Revenues have decreased due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Ortiz-Hernandez said.

“Property tax revenues have remained stationary,” Cortez said in a followup conversation Wednesday morning. “We haven’t seen a major increase in property taxes. It’s remained flat.”

The council went line item by line item while reviewing the proposed budget.

They approved applying for another three-year COPS grant, which would enable the city to hire more deputies. “The grant would pay for the first $125,000 for a new officer, “ Cortez said. “The city would have to come up with an additional $40,000, and those funds would come out of Measure X funds.”

The City Council decided to continue their budget workshop on Wednesday, June 3, at 5 p.m. – again, virtually.


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