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Cal City holds special election for tax to fund police and fire departments

Posted: 6:34 PM, Apr 10, 2018
Updated: 2018-04-11 05:50:50Z

UPDATE (4/10 10:45 p.m.): According to the Kern County Election Results website, Measure B votes have unofficially been tallied at 957 "yes" votes for 57.31% of the vote, and 711 "no" votes for 42.57% of the vote with six out of six precincts reported. A two-thirds majority vote was required to pass Measure B.

(4/10 6 p.m.) A special election was held in California City on Tuesday, with big implications potentially on the line for the city.

The Cal City parcel tax, a $150 tax on each parcel of land owned per year, is already in place in the city. Measure B on Tuesday's ballot is an initiative to keep the tax in place; a "yes" vote would keep things the same, while a "no" vote would remove the tax.

According to supporters, the tax makes up about $7 million of the city's $11.5 million budget; if Measure B fails and the tax is removed, the budget will fall to $4.5 million. Cuts would reportedly come next, with Cal City Fire Captain Andrew Roach saying they've been told a 30% cut would hit the department in July, and another 30% would come if it failed again in November.

The fire department currently employees 15 people, so theoretically, three would lose their jobs by the summer. The police department would see cuts as well, and they had 16 sworn-in officers in late 2017.

Both are seeing busy call volumes, with the fire department expecting to push 3,300 calls in 2018 and the police department seeing over 10,000 calls in 2017. The town of just over 13,700 has seen a particularly strong police presence recently during raids on illegal marijuana grows.

The current tax plan (which would remain if Measure B passes) taxes a person $150 per parcel of land they own per year. DJ Twohig, a California City resident and an opponent of Measure B, says that format hasn't worked. The founder of MyCalCity.org argues that much of the parcel tax is not paid and thus the value of the land depreciates, resulting in a cycle that harms the city.

His group is pushing for a "no" vote in Tuesday's election and hoping that an alternative way to fund the departments can be found. One such plan would be to have all landowners pay a uniform rate instead of per parcel, making it more affordable and increasing the likelihood that people will pay.

Polling places can be found around Cal City, including at Central Park and First Baptist Church. Polling places are set to be open until 8 p.m. on Tuesday; after that, votes will be tallied.