Cut Costs, or Raise Revenue?
There has been quite a heated debate lately about the prospect of outsourcing San Carlos police and fire services. 60% of the nearly 300 people who voted on a recent poll on this site stated they were against the idea of outsourcing these vital services. On the other side of the argument, the other 40% (as well as an apparent majority on our City Council) believes outsourcing is the way to go. But regardless of which side you’re on, one fact remains crystal clear: There’s not enough money in our coffers to operate The City of San Carlos as it exists today.
There’s no real secret to solving a budget deficit — you either have to a) raise revenue, or b) cut costs…or some combination of both. When Measure U failed at the polls last year, the City Manager changed his efforts toward the latter solution, focusing his crosshairs squarely on the largest portion of the city’s budget — public safety.
As you now know, the solution that the City Manager has proposed to cut costs in public safety is for the City to basically divest itself of the financial burden of supporting its own Police and Fire Departments by contracting these services to outside agencies — a move that many residents of San Carlos are apparently not in favor of, as the aforementioned poll indicates.
So this begs the following question — if maintaining our own Police and Fire Departments is important enough to San Carlos residents….
Are We Willing to Pay Extra for Public Safety?
Would San Carlos residents be willing to pony up an additional parcel tax to maintain the Police and Fire Departments roughly as they exist today? I can almost hear the collective shudder of the prospect of yet another tax to pay, and the logical question that will be raised is “Hasn’t the City has already spoken on this matter with Measure U?”
Let’s address that briefly. Regarding the failure of Measure U — I still maintain that what was at stake, and the dire consequences of failure when Measure U was decided was not effectively conveyed to the residents of San Carlos — a point that Council Member Andy Klein essentially agreed with when we he graciously agreed to be interviewed on this site. The whole 10%/20% budget cut scenario, and the prospect of outsourcing public safety did not surface until after Measure U had failed. It’s quite possible that the voter turnout may have been larger, and the outcome possibly different if residents truly understood how dire the situation was.
Also, one could argue that pinning the responsibility of raising revenue on the shoulders of our business owners via a sales tax was a flawed approach. The residents (and homeowners) of San Carlos reap as much or more of the benefit of public safety than do business owners, so why shouldn’t they pay for it?
How Would You Vote?
Setting aside for a moment the “how’s” and “what’s” of getting a parcel tax on the ballot in the first place, how do you feel in principle about a parcel tax if it was dedicated solely to maintaining the San Carlos Police and Fire Departments? An example of this is the approximately $93 annual assessment that residents of Belmont currently pay to fund the Belmont Fire Protection District. How would you vote if something similar was put on a ballot?
Time for a new poll:
This is one of the few stones that remained unturned in this whole debate (aside from cutting costs at City Hall, which the Council seems reluctant to do.) It should be very interesting to see what this poll tells us.
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