Mad River Union
HUMBOLDT – The county’s Measure Z sales tax took effect on April 1 and a county committee has already gotten millions of dollars of requests for its funding.
Measure Z was approved by voters last November and adds a half-cent to the entire county’s sales tax rate. The revenue goes to county government and $8.8 million is expected to be culled in the first year of the measure’s five-year span.
County departments, cities and private agencies have submitted requests for Measure Z funding to a Citizens Advisory Committee that will make recommendations to the county’s Board of Supervisors.
Measure Z was promoted as a public safety tax and the biggest funding request – $3.5 million – comes from the county Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Mike Downey wants to use the money to fill 30 unfunded positions.
They include “frontline deputies,” correctional facility deputies, support staff and positions such as community services officers that have “not been utilized for a number of years.”
Another sizeable funding request is from the Humboldt County Fire Chiefs Association, which is asking for $2.6 million. The money would allow rural and volunteer fire agencies to upgrade and purchase firefighting equipment.
The county District Attorney’s Office has a request for $1.5 million to fill nine frozen positions plus a victim/witness program coordinator and a new deputy district attorney. The frozen positions include two attorneys, two investigators and various office assistant positions.
The county Probation Department is seeking $694,000 to fill six frozen probation officer positions and the Public Defender’s Office is requesting $190,000 for a “social worker practitioner” to advocate for substance abuse and mental health programs.
More jail and juvenile hall staffing is also sought through a $1.4 million request from the County Administrator’s Office (CAO). According to the request, the “future expansion” of the jail calls for 10 more corrections officers and a senior corrections officer, while three “juvenile care officers” are needed in juvenile hall to comply with requirements of the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act.
Many requests are indirectly or peripherally related to public safety. The largest of this group is a request of $2.75 million from the CAO for the General Reserve, the county’s savings account.
The request application states that the county spent $2.75 million to fund public safety services in the 2009 and 2010 fiscal years “due to the economic downturn.” The reserve is now at $1.1 million and its ideal level is $8.7 million.
The CAO also seeks $1 million to pay down the county’s unfunded Public Employee Retirement Services (PERS) liability. The county’s PERS contribution rate has increased 38.6 percent over the last five years due to benefit increases and investment losses, according to the request. The county’s Department of Public Works is also seeking funding for improvements to Central Avenue in McKinleyville, bicycle and pedestrian improvements, road maintenance and various airport-related work.
Other county department requests include $1 million from the Department of Health and Human Services for various social welfare programs, $230,273 from the County Counsel’s Office for Code Enforcement Unit staffing, and $54,000 from the Assessor’s Office for a staffer who would “discover unpermitted new construction.”
Requests from city governments and agencies include one for $483,000 from the Eureka Police Department for expansion of its Mobile Intervention Services Team.
The City of Rio Dell seeks funding for a police department clerk, an economic development coordinator and $25,000 to install sculptures on the city’s medians.
Private agency requests include a $75,000 application from Eureka Mainstreet for surveillance cameras in the downtown and Old Town sections and $10,452 from the Area 1 Agency on Aging for its ombudsman program for residents of nursing homes and care facilities.
The smallest funding request is for $6,000 and comes from the Southern Humboldt-based Community Help in Loving Locally (CHILL) group. It seeks to create a “respite center” in Garberville to “improve our focus on relieving individual and community stress caused by a seasonal influx of travellers.”