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Measure N Committee voices concerns over city spending

Bakersfield City Council (FILE)
Posted at 2:14 PM, Jun 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-11 20:29:07-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Some members of the Measure N Citizens Oversight Committee voiced their disapproval of the proposals by Bakersfield staff to hire more people Thursday.

During Wednesday night's regularly scheduled city council meeting a Measure N committee member, Mitch Rowland told city staff that there is far too much money being spent on salaries for new city personnel rather than what the citizens of Bakersfield voted for under the new one cent sales tax.

“I’m here tonight to express that some members of the Measure N committee are uncomfortable with the proposals by city staff to hire a lot of people,” Rowland said.

Rowland is one of the nine Measure N Citizen oversight committee members. Last year the committee was designed to ensure that the more than $60 million of tax payer money generated by the new one cent sales tax is in fact being spent on what voters wanted..

"One they wanted to see more police officers on the street, number two they wanted to homeless situation cleaned up,” Rowland said.

However, Rowland said that some board members feel that city staff is proposing to use too much money for unnecessary new positions that the city wont be able to afford in the long run using tax payer money.

“The focus should be on public safety which is what the measure was proposed to be and I think that we are getting a lot of proposals to hire staff for the city in various positions, technicians, mechanics, clerks things of that nature that were not a priority for people who voted for this measure.”

In response to Rowland's remarks, The City Manager of Bakersfield, Christian Clegg told 23ABC News that by hiring new public safety workers like police officers under the new tax measure, it also means that need a few technology staff to help maintain the tools needed to perform the additional jobs.

“So for every officer that we bring on board that creates a vehicle that needs to be maintained. For every officer we bring on board it creates technology and equipment with the body cameras and their computers that needs to also be supported,” Clegg said.

According to the City of Bakersfield public safety and vital services website breakdown of expenditures and salaries, more than $4 million has already been spent hiring new workers and more than $12 million has been approved to pay all of the projected workers needed.

However, Rowland said many members feel that due to uncertainties surrounding the budget in light of the COVID-19 pandemic it’s time to act conservatively, "Because otherwise there will be nothing left for projects.”

Clegg also echoed that same concern, “ I publicly expressed appreciation for the wisdom of that approach that we do need to make certain that we leave enough room in the public safety vital services tax, to get at big initiatives and bigger issues and projects.”

Rowland said that the oversight committee hopes to continue their working relationship with the city.

Clegg also told 23ABC that the city has now build in more than $9.5 million in reserves that the city will hold off on spending this fiscal year, in case the economy gets worse due to COVID-19.