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Sentinel staff report–
Following an updated vote count released Friday showing Measure M trailing at 47%, the $12 million sales tax measure in Citrus Heights appears headed for defeat.
While vote counting is expected to continue until Thanksgiving Day, the number of remaining ballots has shrunk significantly. As of Friday, elections officials report around 51,000 ballots remain to be counted across Sacramento County, a small portion of which are from Citrus Heights.
While a concession has not been made by the Yes on M committee, opponents of the tax measure said Friday they believe the measure has been defeated.
“With an almost 2,000 vote lead in the effort to defeat Measure M, we confidently believe that Measure M has been put to rest,” No on M spokesman Bruce Lee told The Sentinel. “Statistically, I am advised that M cannot pass and the margin of defeat is growing.”
Measure M has gone from a 300 vote lead on election night, to trailing by over 1,900 votes as more ballots have been counted.
So far, 663,000 ballots have been counted in Sacramento County, setting voter turnout on track to hit a record 80% — out of the 883,000 registered voters in this election.
A total of 36,824 votes have been counted in the Measure M contest so far, out of a total of 52,174 registered voters in Citrus Heights. With a projected 80% turnout, that leaves less than 5,000 votes remaining to be counted in Citrus Heights.
Yes on M campaign spokespersons and councilwomen Jeannie Bruins and Porsche Middleton have not responded to several email requests for comment on the vote results over the past week. Both sides were also asked to comment on what’s next for residents, if Measure M fails.
Proponents of the measure said during the campaign that cuts to services would be necessary to address projected budget shortfalls over the next decade, without Measure M.
During the council’s 4-1 vote in July to put Measure M on the ballot, Mayor Jeff Slowey offered his support for the measure, saying: “Sure, you can always cut, but at the end of the day, when you cut, that’s gonna affect services.”
But opponents of the measure offer a different picture.
Bret Daniels, who was the only council member to oppose Measure M, told The Sentinel the city “will likely need the courage to look at not only a wage freeze but possibly wage reductions over the next two years.” Tim Schaefer, who is slated to join the council next month after winning election to the District 3 seat, has also advocated for “temporary reductions” in city staff pay.
A Sentinel analysis of 2019 city salaries from California’s Public Pay website found total pay to city staff amounted to $19 million, meaning an across-the-board pay cut of 10% would have saved about $1.9 million last year. However, many of those staff positions are within the Police Department, and cuts to salaries for those in public safety are unpopular. The salary savings also would come far short of the $7.6 million in additional funding per year that the city says is needed to maintain deteriorating roads.
Lee said the city’s budget troubles can be addressed in other ways, saying the city “now has the opportunity to responsibly assess its priorities and focus on its most important functions, while managing its resources as any family would do.” He also said the city has “a bright future and many ways to reasonably manage its finances, including that the city has millions of new property tax revenues coming to itself in just two years.”
Lee’s comments reference the expiration of a “revenue neutrality” agreement in fiscal year 2022-23, when the city will begin receiving revenue from property taxes, estimated around $5-6 million per year. The agreement dates back to when Citrus Heights incorporated in 1997 and reluctantly agreed to have its property taxes be given to the county for 25 years, to compensate for projected negative fiscal impacts the county would incur from Citrus Heights splitting off to govern itself as a city.
However, even with the influx of cash from property tax revenues, the city is still projected to have shortfalls in eight of the next 10 fiscal years, according to a report in June from the city’s finance consultant, Bill Zenoni. According to the consultant, projections were based on a lean model, with no staffing increases and the foregoing of necessary capital improvements for seven years.
The city has already adopted a two-year budget, which concludes on June 30 next year, so any budget discussion will likely not take place until 2021.
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