After much deliberation, many committees and thoughtful debate, members of the Oakdale City Council voted 4-0 (with councilwoman Cherilyn Bairos absent) at the Monday, May 20 meeting to ask the voters to extend Measure Y for an 11-year term on the upcoming November ballot.
Council believes the four-part resolution is the answer to the ongoing dilemma of how to fund public safety with an ever-shrinking portion of pie doled out from the state government down to the city level.
The resolution verbiage:
Calling for an election on a ballot measure proposing an amendment to Chapter 11 of the City of Oakdale Municipal Code to extend the term of the transactions and use tax implemented by Measure Y, previously Measure O, for an additional 11 years;
Requesting the Board of Supervisors of Stanislaus County to consolidate a municipal election on a local measure with other elections to be held on the Nov. 5 consolidated district election date;
Requesting the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors permit the County Elections Official to render election services to the city;
Approving the proposed ordinance.
In 2011 the Council recognized the city’s dire financial situation and slashed sworn police staffing by 25 percent, fire department’s staffing by 29 percent, and a reduction in department heads by 25 percent.
The crisis prompted the creation of Measure O, a one-half cent transaction and use tax for a three-year period, which was approved by 55.4 percent of the voters and adopted by ordinance with a sunset date of April 2015.
An ad-hoc committee appointed by the Council on Feb. 18, 2014, found that the continuation of this revenue source was vital to the preservation of public safety services in the city and recommended that Measure O be extended for an additional five-year period.
And Measure Y was born, extending the one-half cent transaction and use tax, which was approved by 70.2 percent of the voters of Oakdale.
Today, Measure Y creates $1.9 million in revenue, which represents 16 percent of the City’s General Fund income.
“Measure Y has been instrumental in bringing the ability of the city to hire back police officer positions and firefighter positions to help improve the health and safety of our community,” Oakdale City Manager Bryan Whitemyer said. “I’m sure you can imagine what losing $1.9 million in revenue might look like.”
Measure Y has allowed the city to refill six police officer positions and three firefighter positions.
With many of the seated council members fairly new to their seats, councilmember Richard Murdoch offered some historical perspective, saying he remembered when Oakdale used to be No.1 in sales tax revenue in the county “but times have changed,” he said. “Now, we’re second or third to the bottom.”
Retail outlets have disappeared, shopping habits have switched to favor online distributors and the laws have changed, making it more difficult for cities to get their fair share from the state, he added.
“We receive a much smaller portion of what’s collected.”
Councilmember Christopher Smith agreed, saying, “Taxes are horrible but this tax is invisible and it goes right back to us. If I have to pay a tax – this is the tax I want to pay.”
In other action at the Monday night session, council members voted 4-0 to approve a resolution authorizing the city manager to execute a three-year cooperation agreement with Stanislaus County for participation in the Urban County Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Entitlement and HOME Investment Partnerships Program for Fiscal Years 2020-2023.
According to city documents, every three years, current participants as well as non-participating cities within Stanislaus County have an opportunity to enter into an agreement to become part of the Stanislaus County CDBG Consortium to be eligible to receive entitlement funding from HUD for affordable housing, associated infrastructure and community development activities.
The City of Oakdale is choosing to continue its participation in the entitlement program, which represents approximately $167,000 in revenue.
In order to receive the grant funds, HUD is requiring that the city enter into the agreement with Stanislaus County, which will remain in effect until June 30, 2023.
After City Management Analyst Colleen Andersen’s brief presentation, the one concern from an audience member was voiced in regards to more HUD projects in the residential areas.
Andersen answered, “We have to save up for several fiscal years to do a project.”