By Jim Tortolano
Now it’s up to the voters.
After lengthy presentations on the municipal budget crisis, the Garden Grove City Council voted 5-2 on Tuesday night in favor of placing a measure on the June 6 general election ballot to levy a 1-cent sales tax.
Casting “no” votes were council members Phat Bui and Stephanie Klopfenstein, with Mayor Steve Jones and council members Kris Beard, John O’Neill, Thu Ha Nguyen and Kim Nguyen in favor.
Before the voting, the council heard reports from the police and fire chiefs and assistant city manager Maria Stipes. Police chief Todd Anglin told the council that with rising crime and homelessness, “we’re barely hanging on” in terms of meeting community needs.
Fire chief Tom Schultz worried that the fire department was unable to meet the standard of six minutes for paramedic response time. Both chiefs said the departments were understaffed, the GGPD perhaps by as many as 59 patrolmen.
The city is facing a multi-million dollar “structural deficit” caused by state “takebacks” of previously local money, rising pension costs and aging infrastructure.
Even the city’s success in attracting hotels and other business has contributed to the financial crisis. “We’re becoming a big city,” said Anglin. “And we’re getting big city problems.”
The tax, if approved by a majority of voters, would raise an estimated $19 million annually for the city. The ballot measure is worded to emphasize the need to fund public safety needs, but a general tax increase cannot be dedicated to a specific use. However, about 71 percent of the city’s general fund goes to police and fire services.
“It’s important that we let the people’s voices be heard,” said Jones, advocating for placing the issue before voters.
“Tough times call for tough measures,” said Beard. Comparing the situation to her own finances Thu Ha Nguyen said, “Money in has to equal money out.” Kim Nguyen said, “This is something we can’t solve by managing our money better.”
Klopfenstein made no comment on her “no” vote. Bui cast his vote against the motion despite saying earlier in the meeting that “a fact is a fact” and that the city was “facing very difficult times.” However, he had expressed a desire to word the ballot measure to confine spending to public safety.
Categories: Garden Grove