Council Does Right Thing by SB Voters
Our View: Putting tax for more Police on fall ballot is a Plus for Community
Hooray! San Bernardino Mayor Pat Morris is successful in pushing through a police tax for the November ballot. It comes with a hitch, but at least now, residents will have the chance to work toward a safer city. Initially reluctant but buoyed by support from constituents for more police funding, the City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to declare a state of emergency, a necessary prerequisite to putting the quarter-cent sales tax increase on the November ballot.
Because it's a general tax, the revenue can be spent at the council's discretion. But make no mistake, the tax is intended to raise revenue to pay for 26 additional officers by 2008 to flesh out the Police Department's 21-beat plan, as well as to fund other public-safety programs.
The general tax option was used, as opposed to a dedicated special tax expressly for more police, because a general tax requires only a simple majority vote for passage.
Morris has pushed the tax as necessary to meet the challenge posed by the city's "public-safety crisis," and the council has met the first test by acknowledging the crisis.
In exchange, the council passed a series of six resolutions that will include an Aug. 21 council vote on a reduction in the city's utility tax and a cap on business license fees.
While it might seem a self-defeating trade-off for the city to voluntarily cut some tax revenue while raising it elsewhere, the $5.6 annual million to be generated by the sales tax increase would more than offset the $400,000 to be lost through the tax cuts. And if the proposed .1 percent cut in the utility tax, though small, is enough to appease business owners, then so be it. It's now up to the council to convince voters of the importance of passing the tax to put more police officers on the street. But judging from the mayor's recent opinion poll that found 92 percent of residents concerned about crime, the tax resource should prove a done deal.