Sheriff Donny Youngblood urged support Tuesday for two tax measures set to appear on the ballot this Election Day.
If passed, Measure I would implement a one percent sales tax increase for unincorporated areas of Kern County. The expected revenue is $35 million. The funds would guarantee better retention rates for the department, Youngblood said.
The sheriff’s department has struggled to retain officers. If the sales tax increase does not pass, according to Youngblood, there’s a high possibility even more deputies could leave the force.
“We’re losing officers to other agencies. We’re the lowest paid in the central valley,” Youngblood, who has served as sheriff for 12 years, said. “This [measure] is going to put more deputies on the streets.”
The money from the tax will go towards hiring an additional 70 officers, according to Youngblood.
The department has struggled with retention. Last year alone, 52 officers left the agency, according to the sheriff’s office.
Another measure on the ballot is similar to measure I, but applies to just Bakersfield. Measure N is expected to generate $50 million for the city. City Manager Alan Tandy said the one percent tax increase would allow the city to hire more officers.
“Measure n states supplemental police, up to 25 percent in the Bakersfield Police Dept. staffing level,” Tandy said.
That comes out to about 100 new city officers. If both Measures I and N pass, no one would would be taxed twice, as both measures account for different areas.
Youngblood said he worries about a scenario where measure N passes while measure I does not. He said deputies will leave the sheriff’s office for b-p-d.
“That would be the worst case scenario for us because [Bakersfield Police Dept.] will then hire all those officers and I will have no way of retaining the staff that I have,” he said.
The Kern County Taxpayers Association supports measure N, but not Measure I. The organization’s executive director, Michael Turnipseed, said he believes the county already spends a significant amount on public safety.
“Public safety in the county gets 64% of the money,” he noted. “There is more to government than public safety.County parks need money. Libraries need money.”
Youngblood said he understands the difficulties of voting for such a tax increase, but explained this will benefit everyone.
“I’m anti-tax on just about everything,” he said. “But I’m looking from the standpoint as the sheriff and how I can provide public safety in the proper fashion. .”
Some say the revenue from both measures will go just to pensions.
While some of the funds may go to pensions, according to Youngblood, he guarantees most of the money will go towards public safety resources.
Both measures need a simple majority to pass.
Meanwhile, 25 sheriff’s deputies have already applied to transfer to the Bakersfield Police Dept.
Today marks 21 days until election day.