Lemoore Councilmember Ray Madrigal
Lemoore Councilmember Ray Madrigal

In June, Kings County voters narrowly failed to pass what some might say is the most critical long-term public safety funding measure in the Kings County’s history. Of the 19,700 voters who weighed in on Measure K, 66.29% voted yes. In most cases that would be a landslide and overwhelming mandate.

But because Measure K is a special tax, it requires a 2/3 super majority and fell short by about 70 yes votes. In my humble opinion, it is necessary for voters to have another opportunity to pass Measure K.

It is important to remind voters that this is not a new tax. It will not increase your taxes in anyway. Measure K simply proposes to redirect .25% of the current 7.5% sales tax rate to Kings County instead of to the state. The .25% portion was originally added to sales tax rates statewide under Proposition 30 which was passed in 2012 and will expire on December 31, 2016. The Proposition 30 funds were going to the state to supplement K -12 and community college funding. This left little room for input on how our local dollars were spent.

Measure K will redirect the additional .25% sales tax revenue to a fund earmarked for fire and police operations and infrastructure throughout Kings County, including the cities of Hanford, Lemoore, Avenal and Corcoran. The average resident will pay approximately $26 per year, and out of town visitors who make purchases in Kings County will also contribute toward this purpose. It is estimated Measure K will generate $4 million annually to be divided proportionately based upon the population of each jurisdiction. Even at 7.5%, our countywide sales tax is still a bargain when compared to nearby cities including - Visalia 8.25%, Fresno 8.225%, Tulare 8.5%, Reedley and Selma 8.725%.

This is an opportunity for Kings County voters to exercise local control over their tax dollars and keep public safety a priority. The measure contains a key provision to ensure transparency and accountability by requiring an oversight committee. This committee will be comprised of one member of the public from each city and the county. It “shall” hold open public meetings and will be responsible to conduct annual audits, make recommendations, and report findings of expenditures.

The measure also contains very specific language to prevent “supplanting”, or replacing, existing funding. It can only be used for new projects, equipment, or additional staffing. For example, the Kings County Fire Department stations at Burris Park, Hardwick, Stratford, and the Island District are currently staffed with only one full-time firefighter per shift. The county would use Measure K funds to hire additional personnel to provide at least two firefighters at each of these fire stations. Measure K would also provide revenue for Hanford Fire Department to build much needed facilities and add staffing, while Lemoore will add 10 additional fire volunteers.

The Supreme Court in 2011 ordered the state to reduce its prison population. In response, the state moved lower level offenders to county jails under AB 109, and in 2014 voters passed Proposition 47 which reduced penalties for some drug and property offenses. The net effect was an increase in county jail populations, and more individuals with criminal intent free to roam our streets. Countywide statistics for 2015 show a significant spike in property crimes in the year since the passage of AB 109. Moreover, Proposition 57, if passed in November, will only add to the problem by making about 7,500 so called “non-violent” prisoners eligible for early parole.

Measure K funds will be used by the Kings County sheriff to address the immediate need for increased jail and patrol staffing. Our police chiefs have pledged to put more officers on the streets to provide a visual deterrent to crime and enable quicker response times to crimes in progress. These funds will also be used to build facilities and purchase the equipment necessary to provide a 21st century police force.

The measure is supported by our county sheriff, as well as every police and fire chief in the county. Furthermore, it has been strongly supported by every major fire and police labor organization in Kings County. The Kings County Citizens for Safe Neighborhoods Committee has pledged to redouble their efforts to promote Measure K so that the electorate’s desire for safe neighborhoods can be realized.

Measure K is the game changer we need to provide for our own safety, and will allow us the ability to respond to the largely unfunded results of misguided state initiatives. I urge your support and a YES vote for Measure K in November.

Ray Madrigal

Member Lemoore City Council

Committee Member Kings County Citizens for Safe Neighborhoods