A strategy to improve public safety and quality of life. That's what the city of Salinas said it's come up with as a one cent sales tax is set to appear on the November ballot. So what’s the city's next hurdle? Getting voters to support the measure, set to bring in about $20 million a year.
On Tuesday night, council members explained a large chunk of that money is already earmarked to balance the city's budget. The rest of the money will go towards top priorities, like beefing up the police department and better equipment for the fire department.
"I feel bad every day because our department gives very poor service to our community. But we do the best we can with what we're given," said Salinas Fire Chief Ed Rodriguez.
Rodriguez said his department is just one of many suffering from a strapped budget. Twenty percent of his firefighters are funded through a state grant that could be cut. The city is hoping a new money source, will make some visible changes.
"Now they know there's gonna be some action taken, and it isn't just something that's been talked about," said Salinas Mayor Joe Gunter.
The one cent sales tax would last for 15 years and how the money will be divided up still needs to be decided. Police and fire are two top priorities. Furlough Fridays could disappear and some of the jobs slashed within the past year may come back. But none of that's possible unless a majority of the voters pass the measure.
"Public education about what's gonna happen come November. What's going on the ballot, what we're going to do with the money when it comes in," Gunter said.
At Tuesday night's council meeting, not everyone was on board. Some asked for more transparency. Chief Rodriguez said come November, voters will have the final say.
"There's an incredible support to get more services in this community. The only way to do that is to increase our funding. I think we've been as efficient as we can be, outside of probably filing for bankruptcy," Rodriguez said.
The city said if the one cent sales tax passes, the money won’t start coming in until July 2015.