Kings County Residents to Vote on Quarter Cent Sales Tax

The Kings County Board of Supervisors voted in February of 2015 to put Measure K on the June 7 primary ballot. The measure would raise the county’s sales tax by a quarter of a cent. Two thirds of the voters need to vote “yes” for the measure to pass. Beside the county supervisors, the city councils of Hanford, Lemoore, Corcoran and Avenal voted to approve putting Measure K on the ballot.

A committee called Kings County Citizens for Safe Neighborhoods has been working on the measure since 2015 to work out the details. The committee is comprised of local officials, city council members and local residents. One of those details was to create a Citizens Oversight Committee that will be open to the public, review annual audits and make recommendations.

The quarter-cent sales tax would add up to one penny for every $400 spent. Everyone who spends money in Kings County will pay, including travelers throughout the county. It is estimated that each resident will pay an average of $26 per person, per year based on a population of 150,000. This amount goes down if tourism goes up.

One important aspect of this measure is that, if Proposition 30 is extended past January 1, 2017, Measure K would not be initiated and the quarter-cent sales tax would not be levied. Proposition 30 was a statewide tax initiative passed in 2012.

Proposition 30 raised state income tax on the wealthy and the sales tax from 7.25 to 7.5 percent. That proposition is set to expire on December 31 of this year. An effort is underway to get a proposition on the November ballot to extend Proposition 30, but supporters have not been successful in collecting the required number of signatures.

Governor Jerry Brown has voiced his strong objections to extending the tax, and according to the California Secretary of State office it does not have the number of signatures necessary and is not likely to be extended.

According to the ballot measure passed by the Kings County Board of Supervisors, if Proposition 30 sunsets Measure K will take its place but omit the tax on the wealthy. Proposition 30 sets aside the extra $.25 for education while Measure K would set it aside for public safety.

Called the public safety tax, all county law enforcement has been rallying behind Measure K. Kings County Sheriff Dave Robinson said that there is no organized opposition to the measure and that it has been supported by all the supervisors and city council members.

According to the ballot statement in favor of Measure K, “funding for public safety is desperately needed in Kings County. With over 3,500 property crimes per year and a violent crime rate well above the statewide average, particularly for aggravated assaults, Kings County needs more police officers and sheriff’s deputies on patrol in our communities. Emergency response times can be reduced with adequate staffing at strategically located fire stations; yet four stations in Kings County operate as one-person stations, and communities cannot build stations needed to accommodate growth without funding for staff.”

According to the Kings County Elections Office, “The County and its four cities anticipate the measure will permanently generate approximately $4 million annually to be used exclusively for the police and fire departments of these five municipalities.

Of the $4 million collected, approximately $1.25 million would be used by the county for public safety personnel, frontline equipment and facilities for the Kings County Sheriff and Fire Department. The remainder would be broken down as follows.

$1.25 million to the Kings County Sheriff’s Office and the Kings County Fire Department

$1.5 million to the Hanford Police Department and the Hanford Fire Department

$675,000 to the Lemoore Police Department and the Lemoore Fire Department

$335,000 to the Corcoran Police Department

$240,000 to the Avenal Police Department

A flyer distributed by the sheriff’s department states that “with the passage of Proposition 47, there has been an increase in misdemeanor crimes and the decriminalization of felonies. Funds will be used to support public safety throughout Kings County.”

Proposition 47, a ballot initiative passed by California voters on November 4, 2014, reduces certain drug possession felonies to misdemeanors. It also requires misdemeanor sentencing for petty theft, receiving stolen property and forging/writing bad checks when the amount involved is $950 or less.

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