The Ridgecrest City Council at its March 6 meeting approved transferring $60,000 from the general fund to reimburse funds taken from Measure V/L in fiscal year 2016-2017 to cover a shortage in the transit fare box ratio.

The item passed four to one. Councilman Michael Mower was the lone no vote.

The topic was brought before council by Mayor Pro Tem Lindsey Stephens. Stephens explained that council in the past used Measure L/V funds to cover a shortage in the city’s transit fare box ratio. When members of the public objected to this use of Measure L/V funds, council discontinued the practice but never paid the funds back to Measure L/V.

The objection was that the funds were not used strictly for roads and public safety, which is the promised use of Measure L and V. Although council no longer moves funds in this way, Stephens said she thinks the earlier action should be reversed by reimbursement.

“To fully remedy this, we should go back and reimburse the Measure L/V $60,000 used for the fare box ratio shortage,” Stephens said.

The rationale for moving the funds in the first place was that it allowed the city to be eligible for grants, which everyone agreed was in itself a beneficial practice. It was the use of the funds from L/V that people objected to.

Stephens said, “I do understand that that allows us to receive grants, but I think the public expectation is that the actual money would be used toward improvement projects and not towards getting other money as matching funds.”

Councilman Michael Mower asked if Stephens was implying council had done something wrong and needed to correct it.

Stephens, while not admitting any wrongdoing on the part of council, said she nonetheless thought reimbursing the funds back to Measure L/V would be the proper thing to do.

Vice Mayor Wallace Martin said that while he did not view the initial shifting of funds as “necessarily wrong” that “it does set a bad precedent. I think it’s a good idea to put the funds back in.”

Mower said that he questioned whether shifting the funds had any real significance.

“My feeling is if we pay out of the general fund and we find we are short in the general fund for police officers, we just pay for a police officer out of Measure V. You are playing a shell game as far as I am concerned,” he said.

“I think it’s a good idea to put it back,” said Councilman Loren Scott Hayman. He said that while the funds were spent beneficially, the use of Measure L/V for other than strictly roads and public safety was not a good political move. He noted that – based on input from constituents – public trust is particularly important in the light of the current vote on the parks assessment district.

Public Works Director Bard Lower, speaking as a citizen, asked City Manager Ron Strand where the money would come from.

Strand said that Measure V and unallocated general fund money reside in the same account so “what would in theory happen is we would designate unallocated general fund money as Measure V allocated.”

Mayor Peggy Breeden said that while “I will not admit to doing something wrong, I will understand the public’s perception and accommodate that” in repaying the funds to Measure L/V from the general fund.

Council at the same meeting also held a public hearing on the public transportation system. There were no comments received by mail according to City Clerk Ricca Charlon and no one spoke at the meeting. Council therefore established a finding that there are no unmet transit needs that are reasonable to meet with the public transit system.