After a more than two-year court battle over its legality, the Yuba County Board of Supervisors began the process Tuesday of allocating funds collected from Measure K that will go toward public safety and essential services.
During Tuesday’s board meeting, County Administrator Kevin Mallen presented a breakdown that was first presented in 2018, with staff recommendations for how to allocate Measure K funds.
Measure K passed in 2018 with a simple majority of 53 percent and raised the sales tax by 1 percentage point in unincorporated Yuba County. In December 2018, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, along with citizens Charlie Matthews and John Mistler, challenged the measure, arguing it should have been classified as a special tax. In September 2019, Yuba County Superior Court Judge Stephen Berrier ruled that the measure should have been a special tax that requires a two-thirds majority to pass. Berrier ruled that the language in the tax mentioned specific uses for funds collected. The county appealed the decision and in July 2021 the California Third District Court of Appeal overturned Berrier’s ruling and deemed Measure K a general tax.
The tax went into effect in April 2019, while the lawsuit was pending. As litigation played out, the county collected the tax and held funds in a trust that remained untouched pending the final ruling. Mallen said in a presentation to the board Tuesday that approximately $14 million was collected between April 2019 and June 2021. It is estimated that approximately $6 million will be collected during the current fiscal year (July 2021-June 2022).
Mallen made clear that Measure K is a general tax and that the board has discretion over how funds can be used. He read from the language of the tax that stated funds collected go toward maintaining and improving public safety services and essential services for the benefit of the unincorporated areas of the county.
On Tuesday, supervisors unanimously approved a motion that allocated the $6 million to county departments for the current fiscal year.
Approximately 20 percent will go toward the nine fire districts that serve unincorporated areas of the county ($1.2 million), and 80 percent ($4.8 million) will go toward public safety and essential services. The sheriff’s office will receive $2,556,000, the probation department $648,000, and the district attorney’s office $396,000. The remaining $1.2 million will be allocated to other essential county services.
During the meeting, Sheriff Wendell Anderson said the funds would allow his department to hire 13 deputies, six correctional officers, and six support positions. The additional personnel will expand valley service coverage, offer 24/7 coverage of Plumas Lake, expand foothill patrol coverage, sustain a regional partnership with NET-5, sustain school resource officers, increase security and safety in the jail, and allow for additional rehabilitation programming in the jail.
With the $648,000, the probation department will be able to hire one deputy probation officer, a substance abuse counselor, an intervention counselor, a probation aid, and expand programs. District Attorney Clint Curry said Measure K funds will pay for the hiring of a senior deputy district attorney and a deputy district attorney.
“This is a solid investment in public safety,” Curry said.
In addition, code enforcement, the building department, public works, human resources, county counsel, the county administrator’s office, and office of emergency services will be able to add staff, according to Mallen.
The board also unanimously approved a motion for staff to bring back specifics on the allocation of the $14 million previously collected for one-time expenses. The funds will go to fire districts ($2.8 million), one-time public safety expenses from April 2019-June 2020 ($5 million), one-time fiscal year 2021/22 public safety expenses ($1 million), and a sheriff’s office loan payoff to Yuba Water Agency ($3.5 million).
“There will be follow-up items presented to the board in the near future to implement these actions; such as adjustments to department budgets, changes to allocation of positions, funding agreements with fire districts, etc,” Mallen said in an email after the meeting.
Included in the passage of Measure K is the establishment of a Citizens’ Oversight Committee. The board voted unanimously to begin soliciting for residents from unincorporated areas of the county to sit on the five-person committee. An ad hoc committee made up of supervisors Andy Vasquez and Randy Fletcher will discuss with Mallen and county counsel whether the committee members will be compensated for their time.
“The oversight committee is tasked with presenting an annual audit report to the board of supervisors on the use of the Measure K revenues no later than 90 days following the end of a fiscal year,” a staff report read.
The first of these reports will need to be completed by Sept. 30, 2022.
In other business:
– The board received a notice of retirement from County Clerk/Recorder/Registrar of Voters Terry Hansen effective Dec. 27. Hansen has been with the county for more than 32 years. Hansen’s position is elected and her term runs through 2022.
Yuba County spokesperson Russ Brown said the board will be considering a couple of options provided by law for replacing elected officials who exit before their term expires. Supervisors could appoint someone to fill the role until the election or let the next person in the chain of command step into the role on a temporary basis.
“This item will come back to the board, which will then provide direction to staff,” Brown said in an email.