Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Wednesday, June 22 @ 5:07 p.m.

Crescent City Councilors Place Measure S Repeal on November Ballot, Urge Staff to Outline Tax's Accomplishments, Impacts If It Goes Away


Two Crescent City Fire & Rescue trucks make their way down the 4th of July parade route in this 2019 photo. | File photo: Jessica C. Andrews

Previously:

Crescent City Preparing for Measure S Repeal As Councilors Add $1.9 Million in Tax Measure Expenditures to 2022-23 Budget

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(Updated 3:23 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 18 to correct Donna Westfall's affiliation with the Crescent City-Del Norte County Taxpayers Association)

After adopting a budget that includes a roughly $1.4 million in projected Measure S expenditures for police, fire, street and swimming pool repairs, Crescent City Councilors reluctantly agreed to place a proposed repeal of that sales tax on the November ballot.

Councilors also directed staff to report back on how a repeal would affect the departments and programs relying on that money. Though that report wouldn’t necessarily establish priorities if the tax measure goes away, councilors Blake Inscore and Beau Smith said the Crescent City Police Department’s Measure S-funded body cameras must stay.

“I just can’t envision a scenario where that doesn’t exist here going forward,” Inscore said Monday. “That’s the one thing that just kept coming to the top of the list for me. We got to find a way. If (Measure S) goes away, then we got to put this in the general fund, the police budget — some place.”

On April 27, the city received petitions to repeal Measure S, the 1 percent sales tax voters approved in 2020, according to City Clerk Robin Patch. The petition needed 49 signatures — or 5 percent of the number of Crescent City voters who voted in the 2018 gubernatorial election — to qualify for the November ballot. Working with County Clerk-Recorder Alissia Northrup, Patch said the signatures have been verified and there are enough to qualify for the ballot.

Crescent City voters in 2020 approved Measure S with with 64.57 percent of voters casting a ballot in favor of the tax measure.

When the measure appears on the November ballot, city voters will be asked whether they want to repeal Measure S, according to the city’s staff report.

“Therefore a YES vote will repeal (end) Measure S and a NO vote will keep Measure S in place,” the staff report states.

Placing the repeal on the Nov. 8 general election ballot would cost the city an estimated $12,000-$15,000, according to the staff report.

Crescent City resident Jeff McCaddon authored the Measure S repeal petition, Donna Westfall, member of the Crescent City-Del Norte Taxpayers Association, told the Wild Rivers Outpost on June 2.

The taxpayers association is also spearheading an effort to repeal Measure R, the county’s 1 percent sales tax measure voters also approved in 2020.

On Monday, City Manager Eric Wier pointed out that many of the projects the City Council discussed that evening would have to be evaluated if Measure S was repealed. This includes three paid fire captains and additional police officers.

“Even such things as the body camera and the vehicle dash camera upgrades for the police department,” Wier said. “They were all funded by this measure. If we don’t have the funding or it, then we will need to look at, ’how do we accomplish those things?’ And, quite frankly, I don’t know how. I don’t think you can. You can’t just take away $2 million is what it comes down to.”

The city’s 2022-23 budget called for allocating $362,450 in Measure S dollars to Crescent City Fire and Rescue with $144,632 going toward the hiring of three paid fire captains in October. Measure S would also pay for a volunteer station staffing program, a replacement fund for vehicle apparatus and self-contained breathing apparatus packs and a compressor for the city station.

The budget also called for allocating $510,739 to the Crescent City Police Department with $167,816 being used to hire two additional patrol officers, $47,000 to pay for body cameras and Tasers and $14,312 being used for a lieutenant promotion.

According to Crescent City Police Chief Richard Griffin, Measure S paid for license plate readers, in-vehicle cameras as well as the body cameras and Tasers. Measure S also pays for an app that allows him to monitor the calls his officers are on even while he’s stuck in the office filling in as a records and evidence clerk.

“When you integrate that level of officer safety, that equipment, that’s a really good selling point because it’s very few and far between to get any lateral (hires) in the business of policing today let alone attract new applicants,” Griffin told Councilors, adding that 12 new applicants have applied for CCPD’s new cadet program, which is paid for through Measure S. “If we want to build on something for the future, it’s got to be a safe place.”

Crescent City’s 2022-23 budget also called for $550,000 in street improvements, including $100,000 in pothole repairs and another $100,000 in sidewalk repairs.

Councilors on Monday also approved a $417,222 contract with Hemmingsen Contracting using Measure S dollars for a street maintenance and preservation project on Harding Avenue, 9th Street and portions of H Street.

According to City Manager Eric Wier, a total of $500,000 was allocated toward the project, which is coming in under budget. He pointed out that Hemmingsen is also a local contractor.

“It will be work the community has let us know they wanted to see done,” Wier told Councilors, adding that the city has never had the budget to do road preservation work. “Harding Street especially has really started to deteriorate. There are major potholes down the center of that road. This project will fix that.”

The city’s 2022-23 budget also includes $511,701 in Measure S dollars for the Fred Endert Municipal Pool with $331,701 going toward operating costs including personnel.

On Monday, Crescent City Mayor Jason Greenough agreed that hearing a report on how city departments would be impacted if Measure S was repealed was important, but he also wanted to include a list of things that have been accomplished with those dollars.

Smith, who was initially opposed to Measure S, said it’s largely due to its oversight committee that his opinion has changed. He asked Schellong if the Measure S committee has audited the funds so the public could see that “it’s actually being used as quick as possible and we really do need it."

Kelly Schellong, chairwoman of the Measure S Oversight Committee, said an independent auditor audited the tax measure’s revenues and expenditures “separately from the city’s funds.” The oversight committee reviewed and approved the audit in February, she said.

Schellong, a former city councilwoman, praised her colleagues on the oversight committee and the City Council, saying the city has been transparent with how much Measure S revenue it has received and how it’s being spent. However, she acknowledged that opponents’ concerns about taxes are valid.

“However, I want to say 49 people signed that petition and a lot more than that approved Measure S,” Schellong told the City Council. “The city residents said they believed in you. I say they’re going to continue believing in you because you’re following through with the projects they want to see addressed in our community.”

Schellong said if the repeal was successful, the city would stop collecting Measure S dollars as soon as the election was certified, usually by the end of November. Taking those dollars away would change the city’s budget outlook for the next two fiscal years, she argued.

The Measure S Oversight Committee would continue to oversee the tax measure dollars that comes in and how to best use those, Schellong said. But the Council needs to be able to refer to the measure’s accomplishments when voters begin asking questions, she said.


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