Supervisors place proposal backed by Youngblood on November ballot

Kern County voters will decide in November whether or not to pay an extra one percent sales tax to fund law enforcement.

The Kern County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to agree with Sheriff Donny Youngblood's plan to let the voters decide on his proposal to raise the sales tax in unincorporated Kern County from 7.25 percent to 8.25 percent.

Fourth District Supervisor David Couch was the only no vote.

Supervisors Zack Scrivner, Mike Maggard, Mick Gleason and Leticia Perez all voted in favor of it.

If passed, the tax would raise an estimated $35 million annually that Youngblood wants to use to pay for more deputies and to increase salaries to help retain deputies.
Without the money, Youngblood said, deputies will continue to leave Kern County and he could be forced to close some rural substations.

He discussed his proposal in a recent interview.

"I’m not one who believes in raising taxes, but I believe we are at a position in this county where I, as a sheriff, have no other alternative but to ask the taxpayers to help bail this county out of a fiscal emergency,” he said.

Deputies haven’t had a pay raise in nearly a decade, he said, and the department continues to lose personnel to retirement or other agencies faster than it can recruit. Youngblood said between 2013 and now, KCSO lost 229 deputies - 73 retired and 140 left for other job opportunities.

If the sales tax passes, the money raised will go into the general fund and it will be up to the Board of Supervisors to decide how to use it.

The proposed tax has drawn skepticism from several public interest groups, including Kern Residents for Sustainable Government and the Kern Taxpayers Association.

But it drew strong support from the Kern Law Enforcement Association, which represents KCSO deputies and sergeants.

"While higher taxes are never ideal, the public's safety - and that of our deputies - is being placed at risk on a daily basis," KLEA President Tim Caughron said in a news release Tuesday after the Supervisors vote. "We can no longer stand by and support the status quo. Every member of the Board of Supervisors has repeatedly told the voters that law enforcement is their top priority. It's time to put those words into action by not only supporting this measure, but guaranteeing the citizens that the additional monies raised will in fact go to putting more deputies on the street."

 The Bakersfield City Council recently approved a similar measure for the November ballot for Bakersfield voters.

(Ridgecrest Daily Independent reporter Jack Barnwell contributed to this story.)