With Measure O proceeds exceeding expectations, some in the community are questioning what exactly the funds have gone toward.
At the Monday, March 4 Oakdale City Council meeting, resident Alice Garcia questioned city officials about where exactly the profits from the half-cent sales tax had gone. While staff didn’t have the exact figures at the time, city leaders reassured her that spending had gone toward public safety, street sweeping, community and senior center, and recreation programs as promised by the initiative.
In November 2011, 56 percent of the voters passed a sales tax increase that would add a half-cent to every dollar purchase in the city. The tax went into effect in April 2012 and is scheduled to end at the end of March 2015. Supporters predicted that Measure O could add $1.2 million a year to Oakdale’s general fund.
“The (Measure O) numbers came back higher than we had budgeted,” Mayor Pat Paul said. “We’re doing exactly as pledged. We are looking carefully at the budget and keeping things transparent.”
Earlier this year the city council approved a proposal that would bring back monthly street sweeting to the city. The police department has used some of the proceeds toward officer overtime for special enforcement and also used some of the money to purchase a new digital video recorder and surveillance video system to replace an outdated and malfunctioning system that was in place.
City officials have publicly stated that the funds have spared the city from any police lay-offs of the already diminished force and kept the senior center operating.
Paul said she would like to see police staffing increased with the money.
To guide the increased revenue, the Measure O Oversight Committee reviews the expenditures and revenues received from the city half-cent sales tax initiative to ensure that the funds are used in accordance with the ballot initiative.
City Manager Brian Whitemyer said he was in the process of preparing a mid-year budget report and is analyzing and identifying expenditures of all funds including those from Measure O.
Whitemyer said he will be presenting his findings on Measure O at the Measure O Oversight Committee meeting.
The full city Mid-Year budget review will be held at a later date, according to Whitemeyer, probably the first week in April.
The five member Measure O Committee last met Feb. 21 and meets again on Thursday, March 21 at 5 p.m. in the council chambers.