RIALTO - Voters will likely get to decide in November whether to extend the city's controversial utility-users tax for another decade.

At today's City Council meeting, the council is expected to call for a special election to approve extending the tax from 2008 to 2018.

"It's unfortunately a necessary thing right now," said Councilman Ed Scott.

The tax, an 8 percent charge on utility bills, brings in almost a quarter of the city's General Fund revenues.

Officials say they can't run the city at a standard residents expect without it.

During the 1999-2000 fiscal year, the city faced a budget crisis and had to lay off about 50 workers - 10 to 15 percent of its employees, said Assistant City Administrator Kirby Warner.

But residents don't seem to be in love with the tax.

Voters approved it by five votes in 2003.

Pam Machain, who at 50 has lived in the city since she was in third grade, said she doesn't think the tax, which she said costs her about $30 to $40 a month, has helped out that much.

"I'm pretty much decided that I'm not going to vote for it right now," she said.

She said she doesn't trust city officials anymore after the council voted to get rid of the Police Department in 2005, a vote it later reversed.

Getting the tax passed will not be a "slam dunk," Scott said.

"I think it's going to take some significant communication with the community," he said.

The tax has brought in about $12.8 million this fiscal year and is expected to bring in $13.5 million next year, making it the largest source of money to the General Fund.

"It's an essential funding mechanism," said City Administrator Henry Garcia.

Garcia and Warner said they decided to recommend extending the tax for 10 years because it will take at least seven years to rebuild the Police Department.

Even though the tax is the largest source of revenue for the General Fund, about three-quarters of it goes to public safety, Warner said.

Since 2003, the Fire Department has been able to add 10 positions, said Chief Steve Wells.

Before the tax passed, he said, Station 204 in the Las Colinas area was not staffed most of the time, and the department had stopped using the ladder truck.

According to a city fact sheet on the tax, it has allowed the city to eliminate its budget deficit, add 20 police employees in addition to the fire personnel and employees in other city departments, add 59 police and code- enforcement vehicles, add 20 other city vehicles and fully staff Station 204.

With all the economic development taking place in Rialto, especially with the approaching opening of the 210 Freeway extension, some members of the council hoped the tax could be replaced or at least reduced with sales-tax revenue.

But that's just not possible, Garcia and Warner said.

A Wal-Mart supercenter in the planning stages would generate $500,000 in sales taxes per year, Garcia said, which means it would take 24 supercenters to make up for the tax. And the city's needs will only expand as the new development comes online.

Besides, more than 50 percent of California residents pay a utility tax, Warner said.

There are also low-income and senior-

citizen exemptions to make it more bearable.

Don King, a 73-year-old retired pharmaceutical sales representative, said he will probably support the tax. He's noticed city services improving, he said. His street is now swept regularly, which he said hadn't happened in years.

Even though Garcia and Warner say the facts are on their side, a number of residents said the city needs to level with them and hold public meetings on the issue.

Scott said there should be public meetings similar to the large, well-publicized meetings the city has held to talk about drinking water contamination in the city.

Donald Balderrama, a retired high-school teacher who lives in Rialto, said he supported the tax last time but that people are skeptical about whether the tax is necessary.

"I don't think it will pass. I really don't think so," he said.

"People need to be informed."

Contact writer Jason Pesick at (909) 386-3861 or via e-mail at jason.pesick@sbsun.com.

BS Ranch Perspective

The Rialto City Council will have another Election to vote on Extending the Utility Tax, they will say that it is a necessity to keep the city running the best that it can and keep the employees happy that work for the city. I can tell you that the Police Department has been totally Fixed, they got the Right Chief to return the Police department to the glory days that it was back when Ray Farmer was chief and there was much of more of a watch your partner's Back to the department, that has returned instead of worrying about your own back and now you feel that there are people that are looking out for you as a Police Department should.

The only thing that is missing in the Police Department is the 3%@50 Retirement Plan that 98% of every other Law Enforcement Agency in the United States now has. Rialto is in a Small class of Law Enforcement Agencies that don't have that and what that does it makes Rialto a Training Ground for people that are just out of the Academy! You really would have to take note that if you would want the Officers that you have now to consider to stay here in Rialto and finish their career's here, that they should have this Retirement Plan, the other just is an Obsolete Plan anymore. The Law Enforcement Officer is a Young Game and there are not many Officers that are out there chasing People that are on Narcotics at the age of 50, that don't come up with some kind of injury that they are retired on, with a Full 50% Tax Free Pension, for a say 38% disability, then they go and work at say an Insurance company making say $50,000. a year and another $25,000 a year tax free that is like making a whopping take home of $75, 000.00 if they have tax write offs. So, they don't have much hard work to do and they make pretty good money.

Ten years ago when my accident happened we didn't make as much as they do now, and with my house payment I was close to losing my home, it was a struggle. I Have to say, If it was not for the Men, and Woman of the RPBA (Rialto Police Benefit Association) Members back then that Elected to write myself and my Wife a little bit of money to help us through the hard situation, we would have lost our home. I really don't think that I properly thanked them, I guess it was because I was so over whelmed with the accident, Pain, Doctor Appointments, Pain, The adjustment to medication, Pain, all the new treatment that I had questions about, Pain, and the Physical Therapy, and OH YEA, The constant throbbing Pain, that continues to this day!!! Thank you RPBA, A Little late, and well now it is a little hidden too (I am sorry about that).

The Special Election costs the city some $40,000.00 from previous stated amounts from city council meetings, I could be wrong, they might be a whole lot more. But they are willing just as they were to fight the RPBA, to have a Special Election to continue a Tax that is at a time when people are wanting to lower the cost of their living if anything due to the current cost of Gasoline used to motivate their internal combustion engines to work and to play!

The Only Point that the City Council will have is that you are currently paying the TAX and you will not see it at all! and if we don't get this tax we will be in such a bind that we will fall apart and turn the whole government over to the Sheriff of SB County and they will run the Fire Department and Police Department so you will lose both parts that you fought so eagerly to keep.

However they spent upwards of a million to fight the Police Department, and when it was time to keep the Police Department they had spent all the money that was collected from the Utility Tax Increase on the Millions and Millions of dollars collected on new Fire equipment!! all to make the Police Department Jealous, and to top this all off The Council had asked the Fire Department to Campaign against The Police Department During the Fight for the Sheriff Department with the enticement of a 3% at 50 Retirement in their contract!! But since the Fire Department didn't successfully get rid of the Police Department then they lost their 3% at 50 Contract Special.

Please they are mishandling funds, the City administrator, and the city Councilor should be the ones that go, they make to much money. the city administrator makes $734, 000.00 a year, and the Cities Attorney makes a little less. then that . Together they clear, Almost a quarter million shy of two million.

BS Ranch