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Councilman Warns of Cuts if Voters Deny Fee

March 13, 1997|RUSS LOAR

City Councilman David John Shawver said he is prepared to cut police and fire services by a third if the city's June 3 ballot initiative on public safety services fails.

The ballot measure calls for a public safety services fee that would raise about $2.9 million a year to pay for police and fire services. The fee is needed, Shawver said, to offset losses from Proposition 218.

That measure, passed by voters statewide in November, limits how cities may levy taxes and fees.

If residents do not approve the Stanton ballot initiative, "then they're telling me that they want a lower level of service, and I'm going to do what the people say," Shawver said at Tuesday night's council meeting.

The public safety services fee would replace the city's current 5% utility tax, a decade-old protective services tax and two lighting assessment fees. The combined fees bring about $2.2 million in annual revenue.

The annual cost of county-provided police and fire services is about $7 million, an amount equal to 74% of Stanton's $9.5-million general-fund budget. City officials estimate that police and fire costs may rise by more than 2% for fiscal 1997-98.

"The scary thing about the whole situation is that when your budget is three-quarters police and fire and the other 26% is mostly mandated programs and uses, there's nothing left to cut," Councilman William C. Estrada said. "If we have to cut, the only choices we have left are to cut in the areas of police and fire services."

"Our crime rate has dropped 43% in the last five years. I would really hate to change that. I want to keep that downward trend in crime," Estrada said.

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