BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Wednesday night, the Bakersfield City Council heard recommendations on how to spend a boost in revenue brought in from the city’s one-cent sales tax during a midyear budget report.
It comes as the committee tasked with advising the council on the tax was fractured over how to best use the extra funds at its meeting Tuesday.
The sales tax, known as Measure N or the Public Safety and Vital Services Measure, was passed by Bakersfield voters in 2018.
The city is seeing an unanticipated $19 million surplus from the measure due to staffing shortages funded by the tax and inflation.
City manager Christian Clegg says the city is required to put some of the money in reserves and is recommending, even more, be put aside for consideration next year.
“It gives us a little more cushion in next year’s budget because we expect the economic slowdown to come,” Clegg said.
That leaves about $7.6 million for the city to spend. Many of the city’s recommendations presented to the Public Safety and Vital Services Committee Tuesday, left members divided.
“Let’s honor what it was supposed to be about, which is police. Very little of the $7.6 million is going to police,” Committee member Cathy Abernathy said. “To me, what is critical as a business person, as a resident. is streets. We have very poorly paved streets.”
The city’s recommendations does put funds toward a police department training facility, but much of the proposal is focused on parks, animal shelter improvements and about $4 million to issues around homelessness and housing.
“Some areas like police and fire are not seeing increases because we’ve made significant increases in those budgets in the last couple of years. But we haven’t seen emerging needs since July when we started our fiscal year. Whereas homelessness, we have seen, and continue to have significant challenges and issues,” Clegg said.
Clegg said most of the measure’s regular budget is allocated for police and believes the department will see an increase in funds next fiscal year.
“What we wanted to see was what can the money be spent on to make our town safer and to make it a more attractive community for business growth. That’s generally neighborhoods, roads, streets that kind of work, not enhancing animal care,” Abernathy said.
Ultimately, it will be the City Council that votes on how to spend the money.
You can see more about the city’s budget online.