By Ed Martin, Editor
Local leaders ready campaign to approve Measure K for Kings County public safety

Local government and law enforcement officials are gearing up for a Kings County ballot measure to beef up local public safety, and it will include increased funding for police, Sheriff and fire services. The measure, labeled as Measure K, will be on the June 7 California election ballot and will require two-thirds voter approval, not an easy task in Kings County considering the conservative bent of local voters.

But local public safety officials and leaders in the community are optimistic about the measure’s chances and are proceeding full-speed ahead with the measure. A committee has been meeting regularly since late 2015 to hammer out the details of the tax measure. The committee, comprised of local officials, including council members and local residents, will be called “Kings County Citizens for Safe Neighborhoods.”

The local quarter-cent measure will raise approximately $4 million per annum, which will be distributed to Kings County and its four cities, all of whom, by a vote of legislative leaders, including councilmembers and county supervisors, approved the concept with only one Hanford councilmember voting no. Lemoore councilmembers were all in agreement.

The funding will be distributed via local population statistics. The population of Kings County prisons – Corcoran and Avenal – will be absorbed into the county’s coffers.

Lemoore’s preliminary share of the tax proceeds would amount to approximately $675,00, and while Hanford and Kings County have most of the county’s population, Hanford would net $1.4 million, and Kings County would get $1.1 million.

An ad hoc committee, consisting of law enforcement officials and city leaders, met Tuesday night in Lemoore to put the finishing touches on the measure.

If passed by voters in June the measure will replace Proposition 30, a sales-tax measure passed in 2012 and pushed by Gov. Brown, that implemented a quarter-cent sales tax for California’s schools. The measure will sunset on December 31, and it will clear the way for Kings County’s measure to take hold.

According to Lemoore officials, the Lemoore Police Department will hire at least three sworn police officers and improve local volunteer fire services.

The most recent public safety measure to appear on a local ballot was Measure S put on the ballot by the City of Hanford. Hanford voters said no to the measure by a 56-43 percent vote.

Kings County Sheriff Dave Robinson couldn’t be more pleased with the response he’s received from local officials. “The impetus for all of us is that public safety is always struggling for funding,” he said. “The opportunity seems to be right… with the state sales tax (Prop. 30) expiring. We’re not creating a new sales tax. Instead the (taxes) that are going to the state, they will stay at the local level and spread around the county for all of us.”

Robinson went on to say that he thinks the mood in Kings County is strong, and the support is there to pass the measure by a two-thirds vote. “I really think there is strong support for public safety in Kings County. We’re still a very safe place to live and raise a family, so I do believe that we have support from the local community.”

Robinson went on to say that by placing Measure K on the June ballot, the county’s residents will have a unique opportunity to spend a very small amount of money and at the same time increase the opportunity for public safety to grow and do more of what local government already does to keep its citizens safe.

Included in the ballot measure language is a stipulation that an oversight committee, comprised of liaisons from each public agency, will be appointed along with a member of the public at large. In other words, each council will appoint one of their own to the oversight committee as well as a public member. The only member voting will be the public appointee.

Robinson said the oversight committee will oversee all expenditures, perform annual audits and report to Kings County residents how the money is being spent. The committee will also be open to the public. “We really want people to understand that. It has to be spent on public safety,” said Robinson.

Robinson is pleased there has been nearly unanimous buy-in from Kings County’s four cities and the Board of Supervisors. They all voted to participate in Measure K.

“I believe it’s a great omen,” said Robinson. “When you get them all to agree in an almost 100-percent unanimous action, it goes a long way to show their support for our community and their support for protecting our community. Now, let us make our case to the voters. Let them decide.”

Robinson is urging that anyone wanting to participate in the campaign process contact him. “There will be a campaign, and anyone who wants to help out can contact me, and we’ll be glad to include them in the process.”

Lemoore Chief of Police Darrel Smith told The Leader that the facts are that if voters approve Measure K, about $4 million will go directly into the local coffers to support public safety. In Lemoore’s case that amounts to about $675,000, much of will be spent on immediately hiring three new fully sworn police officers and paving the way for 10 more volunteer firemen.

“That quarter cent is going to the state right now, and we don’t see any of that money. We’re not adding a tax,” said Smith, “we’re just extending the current tax of .25 percent… and all of that money will now be in our local agencies going toward public safety, and I think that’s important.”

Smith has been more than pleased with the cooperation shown on Measure K. “I think that for me it just shows how unified we are as a county in general. In law enforcement and fire, it has always been that way. We’ve been always able to work together.”