Where Did Cathedral City Tax Dollars Go?
Photo: Video by kmir6.com
The city of Cathedral City is getting back on its feet after a tough economy.
Residents passed a sales tax hike in 2010 to try to help.
But since then, the city laid off both cops and firefighters.
KMIR6 viewer Geoff asked us to investigate, he wrote, "...what happened to the 1% sales tax increase that was supposed to be for more cops, etc but instead they have laid off cops and had rotating fire stations closures."
Geoff Gerster is paying a high sales tax in Cathedral City, almost 10 percent.
For him, it's about public safety.
"I did, I voted for it, I thought it was a really good idea, I don't know, I just kind of wonder what happened with all that extra money."
But officers and firefighters were laid off.
"That didn't cut it as far as I could see, public safety, that's what that one percent was supposed to be," said Geoff.
Those cuts hit home when his daughter had a scare in September, there were people banging on the door at night.
"She was afraid and she called 9-1-1 and she said to my daughter that we have no police cars to dispatch at the moment, they're all on other calls."
His neighbor had a similar experience, and it took cops 50 minutes to get there.
"You know I love our cops, but if there ain't enough of them, there's a problem," said Geoff.
So how much did that tax increase raise?
"What that did was it has meant a revenue stream to our community of about 4 million dollars," said Cathedral City Manager, Andy Hall.
We asked Hall what happened to that money.
"About a year later, redevelopment agencies were dissolved, so we had another financial challenge we had to deal with."
The city manager tells us that crisis, and other financial troubles left the city short on money.
"In a two year period, about 11 and a half or 12 million dollars from Cathedral City," said Hall.
Hall says the sales tax increase helped stop even more drastic cuts.
"Absolutely, it has been a tremendous help, it was just absolutely critical."
Last year, Cathedral City did lay off 4 police officers, and 4 firefighters, but brought most back.
"We've been able to restore those four police officer positions, we've restored two of the fire positions."
They'd still like more officers.
"We would still like to grow our police department back to its original levels of 57 sworn officers," said Hall.
More income would mean more services, and finally there seems to be an uptick in growth.
"The first commercial buildings that we've issued permits for in over five years, so we're really excited, it seems like things are starting to turn a bit and we're pretty excited about it," said Hall.
That one percent sales tax hike expires in 2015.
So will the city have to go to voters again?
"We hope the economy improves a whole bunch by then, if it doesn't, we're going to have to look at whether or not we're going to take and cut our budget by another 4 million dollars or whether or not its appropriate to approach our citizens to see if it makes sense to extend that," said Hall.
And if they do, will Geoff say yes?
"We'll just play it by ear, see how things are doing," said Geoff.
So he'll be paying close attention.
"You have to hold the people accountable, that's about all I've got to say," said Geoff.
The city manager told us this year they will have a balanced budget with no more cuts.
Cathedral City's budget is about 30 million dollars, down 10 million dollars from just five years ago.
About 80 percent of the budget goes to public safety.