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How residents want Kern County to spend its money

Posted at 1:00 PM, Jun 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-22 16:00:20-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Kern County Supervisors heard a presentation about residents' priorities for how the county spends money. The goal is to better understand the needs of the community.

The surveys were held in July of last year and May this year. Residents shared how they felt county funds should be used.

"One of ht big takeaways primarily from both of these surveys but this is specifically reporting on the latter survey just completed a few weeks ago is that maintaining public safety, retaining and attracting local businesses and jobs, helping to address mental health and addiction challenges and repairing roads are considered among the most important measures. That were the priorities set forth," said James Zervis, chief operations officer at the Kern County Administrative Office.

These are mostly shared when singling out un-incorporated residents from the rest of countywide results which county officials point out rely soley upon the county for law enforcement and other emergency-related needs as opposed to those who live in cities.

But County Administrative Officer Ryan Alsop says things are only going to get harder to keep up with funding due to state regulations.

"The state comes in, announced a new regulatory framework for oil and gas properties. They're going to eliminate oil and gas entirely in 15 years. They're not permitting fracking. We're not moving permits. We're not drilling for more oil, and you see it flatten out and go negative."

Alsop says property taxes make up the vast majority -- 73-percent -- of the county's discretionary revenue but oil and gas property assessed valuation has decreased dramatically.

Alsop says that value has dropped by nearly $380 million in the past seven years and as California as a whole continues to tighten its regulatory grip on the oil and gas industry that value will only continue to fall.

Adding fuel to the fire, Alsop says over the same time period, Kern County has only increased its sales tax revenue by about 19-percent compared to more than 50-percent in other California counties.

County supervisors told staff to draft a proposed ballot measure to increase the sales tax by one cent in un-incorporated areas of the county. That's expected to be ready by the next meeting on Tuesday.