KINGSBURG – Relieved and ready for the next step. That was the reaction among Kingsburg officials as the final votes were tallied in the June 5 statewide primary election that showed the local safety tax, Measure E, garnered a 70.34 percent approval rating
Mayor Michelle Roman said she was thankful for the support and is looking forward to having more funds for both the police and fire departments.
The sales tax needed a 66 percent approval. It garnered more than that and Roman said the higher approval shows how much fire and police personnel are valued in the community.
“Kingsburg has always been a safe place to live with excellent service from our departments. Now we will be able expand with hiring more public safety personnel and enhance these departments with new equipment and technology upgrades,” she said.
City Manager Alex Henderson said the next step is for the Fresno County Clerk’s office to certify the results by July 5 and then the 1 percent sales tax will be effective starting Oct. 1. Measure E is expected to add an additional $940,000 annually to the city of Kingsburg’s budget for public safety services.
To ensure the funds are spent appropriately, a citizens’ oversight committee will be established. Residents interested in serving on that committee may contact City Clerk Abigail Palsgaard at City Hall.
The first batch of Measure E sales tax fund will be received in November and then every month thereafter, Henderson said. The city may take steps to make purchases or hire more personnel sooner than that, he said.
“It will take some time, but the finance committee and Council will discuss top priorities immediately,” he said. “It’s possible some purchases/hiring could occur prior to October with the understanding that the measure funds, when received, will pay back the general fund for any loans.”
That prospect is a relief to local fire and police department leaders who have already informed the City Council on various equipment and staffing needs as part of the planning process to put the decision before voters.
Fire Chief Tim Ray said an immediate need is to replace outdated fire engines that are long past safe operating capabilities. The department’s newest engine is 17 years old and the back-up one can no long pump water at capacity.
“We need an engine really bad. Now that this has passed, the ability to get a new engine is probably closer than we think,” Ray said. Depending on funds, his next priority would be to add more staff as each shift is spread thinly when the two paramedics have to respond to a call.
“We want to increase staff so we can staff two ambulances 24/7. We definitely have the need for it; we just don’t have the staff to provide it all the time. We have to rely on reserves.
The firefighters respond to more than just medical and fire calls within the city, Ray said. Their department covers an 85 square mile area in Fresno, Kings and Tulare counties for ambulance services and then also operates under a mutual aid contract with Selma, Sanger and Fresno County.
“We’re pretty busy for such a small department so I’m very relieved. I’m glad we’re finally getting somewhere. We’ve been pushing for a new engine since I’ve been chief for eight years now. Hopefully now we can start making some progress.”
Henderson congratulated the local committees who reached out to voters at community functions, on social media and through their own campaign efforts to explain how the extra funds would benefit the city’s overall safety.
“Kudos to the police and fire associations and the Yes on E Committee for their efforts to explain the benefits of the proposal,” Henderson said. “Kingsburg residents showed they desire additional public safety amenities. Now it’s staff and Council’s time to responsibly implement their wishes.”