Local police say a recent proposal to ask Glenn County voters to consider a countywide sales tax increase to bolster law enforcement funding is already dead on the vine and there is still a chance residents could lose 24-hour street patrols.
"That idea has floundered," Sheriff's Deputy Brandy McDonald acknowledged Thursday. "It's not going to happen, at least this year for sure."
Two weeks ago the Glenn County Board of Supervisors softened budget cuts to the Sheriff's Office that would have effectively killed 24-hour street patrols countywide.
Sheriff Larry Jones said the partial funding restoration would allow around-the-clock coverage to continue — at least for now.
State budget decisions, expected some time in August, could force further cuts locally that would likely impact law enforcement first, meaning an end to 24-hour service, authorities said.
"The state is always finding new and innovative ways to take funding from the local governments to balance their mess," Willows police Sgt. Jason Dahl said.
Supervisor Mike Murray, a retired lawman himself, had challenged local law enforcement unions to bring a ballot proposal in November asking for voters to consider a countywide sales tax increase.
Murray said, if voter's
approved the measure, the extra funding could be used to stabilize law enforcement funding.
However, with the looming Aug. 6 deadline for the November ballot less than a month away, area officers said it is already too late.
"I'm not sure people would've gone for it anyway," McDonald said.
McDonald, 32, a nine-year veteran of the Glenn County Sheriff's Office, is president of the Deputy Sheriff's Association, a local labor union.
"Given the economic situation, I'm not sure locals could even afford it," McDonald added.
Orland police Sgt. J.C. Tolle concurred, saying a new tax was not the right solution.
"When do you draw the line on new taxes?" Tolle questioned. "There are already too many taxes."
Orland resident Jeannette Rosales said she wouldn't support an effort to collect additional law enforcement funding.
"No one has any money to pay for something like that," said Rosales, 25, who works in a Willows coffee shop. But also, the cops we do have, they just pick and choose which crimes they want to help you with."
Rosales said she could cite "many examples" of officers "turning their backs on a lot of people I know," but declined to be specific.
"That's just how I feel, personally," she said.
Others, like Willows' Kathy Bradford said she would have "definitely" supported the tax hike.
"It's scary to think they'd cut (patrols)," Bradford said.
Like Rosales, Bradford, 57, is a Glenn County native, and she believes the county is more dangerous than it was when she was growing up. She's particularly concerned about gangs, drugs and recent spikes in burglaries.
"A lot of us are living paycheck to paycheck," Bradford said, "but they should increase the money for police to keep us safe at night. It just should be done."
Another possible avenue for protecting public safety funding has already qualified for the statewide November ballot, but area police were equally as skeptical about the effectiveness of the proposed measure.
The "Local Taxpayer, Public Safety and Transportation Protection Act of 2010," would reportedly restrict the state from raiding local government coffers to balance the budget each year.
Jones declined to comment on that specific measure, saying he would need more time to study the proposal, but said, in general, protecting local budgets from being raided by the state is a good idea.
"For the most part, any of these programs that would protect county funding, would be something I would support," Jones said.
Sheriff's Sgt. Travis Goodwin said he does not "know what the answer is," and said many in law enforcement struggle to trust these types of proposals because, historically speaking, when there has been money supplemented specifically for law enforcement, that money never seemed to end up where it was intended.
Goodwin, 37, has been with the sheriff's office for about five years, but in 2003 he was working for the Willows Police Department.
"At that time there was a push to get some hotel user tax money for (law enforcement)," Goodwin recalled. "We pushed hard for it with advertising and got it."
But, Goodwin said, many in the police union believed that money would go directly to the police department, but was instead put into the general fund.
"We were misled, that's my opinion," Goodwin said.
While saying he hoped that would not happen again should law enforcement find any new money in the future, Goodwin said it was simply a tough situation for everyone affected.
"This is the perfect storm for crime, I believe," he said. "Our funding is getting cut as crime rises like crazy. There has to be a solution, but I don't know what it would be."