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City Council votes to use one sales tax measure to balance another

City Council votes to use one sales tax measure to balance another

City Council plans to transfer two fire positions, one police position from Measure T to Measure N

By Reggie Ellis @Reggie_SGN

VISALIA – The Visalia City Council is planning to use Measure N money to balance out Measure T. 

At its Aug. 5 meeting, the Visalia City Council held its first public hearing to transfer two fire department positions and one police department position currently funded by Measure T to Measure N and pay a portion of overtime for firefighters from the General Fund instead of charging Measure T. 

Measure T is a quarter cent sales tax measure passed in 2004 specifically to fund personnel, construction projects and equipment purchases for the police and fire departments. The sales tax is a 60-40 split between police and fire. 

The fire portion of Measure T’s expenditures have exceeded revenues since 2014. The fire fund ended the 2018-19 year with a deficit of $536,000 which is projected to grow to nearly $800,000 by 2024. The fire fund’s current surplus of $4.2 million will offset the deficit until 2025. In order to balance Measure T, the staff is recommending moving two of the 15 fire department positions to Measure N, a half cent sales tax approved by voters in 2016. Typically, the fire department maintains one or two vacant positions in its General Fund budget for public safety. Instead of reducing staff, the city will transfer the vacant positions to Measure T. Staff is also recommending a $150,000 transfer from the General Fund to Measure T to offset overtime due to those vacancies. The move will cost the General Fund an additional $300,000 per year but save Measure T nearly $679,000 per year. This will lower the fund’s deficit to $20,000 per year starting in 2023.

Conversely, the police portion of Measure T’s revenues continue to outpace expenditures. The police fund ended the 2018-19 years a surplus of $315,000. But that will change in 2021 when the fund is projected to have its first deficit. The police fund’s current surplus of $1.5 million is projected to more than cover the deficits with a surplus of $1.3 million projected for 2024 but is projected to run out of cash by 2030. 

To balance the fund, staff is recommending swapping an officer position paid for by the General Fund to Measure T. Because this is a vacant position, there will be no staffing changes but Measure T will realize the savings of the vacant position instead of the General Fund. The move should save Measure T about $120,000 annually. 

The plan was approved by the Measure N Oversight Committee on June 19. The City Council will hold a second public hearing on this issue at its Aug. 19 meeting. 

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