New gang tax plan would beef up police by 50 officers

60 percent would pay for youth anti-gang programs

By Ryan Lillis, sacbee.com

Published 2:44 pm PDT Monday, July 28, 2008

A retooled anti-gang tax measure drafted by Sacramento city officials shortens the term of the original proposal by half, expands upon how the added revenue would be spent and says the money could pay for at least 50 new city cops in the first year.

The draft of the new language in the sales tax proposal was released Monday. City Council will vote on the updated Sacramento Gang Prevention and Youth Investment Measure at its meeting Tuesday night. Should six of nine councilmembers approve of the ordinance, it will appear on the ballot Nov. 4.

If two-thirds of voters approve the measure, the sales tax in the city of Sacramento will increase from 7.75 percent to 8 percent. The hike will generate an estimated $16 million a year to pay for prevention and enforcement efforts in the city’s battle against street gangs.

The tax increase would be in effect for 15 years, and 60 percent of the revenue raised would pay for “youth investment programs,” according to a staff report that accompanies the updated draft.

City officials estimate the revenue generated by the tax hike would likely increase “as the economy recovers and the city continues to grow.”

City officials said that while the 15-year term of the ordinance is half the original proposal floated by Sacramento Supervisor Roger Dickinson, it is enough time for the program to “demonstrate results.” Both the police department and the city’s Office of Youth Development recommended the 15-year term, the report says. An estimated $9.6 million would go to prevention efforts. That money would expand city programs or help community-based non-profit organizations. Services targeted by the measure would include job training programs, mentoring activities, school-based programs and youth outreach services.

The rest of the money would go to the gang suppression, including hiring more cops and police support staff, expanding police programs dedicated to school safety, expanding police efforts to investigate gang and youth crime, and training officers in gang and youth crime prevention efforts.

The police department estimates the money raised in the first year of the tax would pay for between 50 and 60 new cops dedicated to the anti-gang duties outlined in the draft.

The measure calls for periodic reviews of the programs receiving funding. The mayor – subject to City Council approval – would appoint a five-member independent review committee to examine the programs each year.

One member of that panel will have at least 10 years of law enforcement experience, one will be an educator with at least 5 years experience, another will be a certified public accountant, one will be a gang or youth violence expert and the fifth will be a parent of a child under the age of 18.

While the measure would give Sacramento the highest sales tax in Sacramento County, the city’s tax rate would still be lower than Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose, according to city officials.

At a Monday morning press conference held before the draft was released, mayoral candidate Kevin Johnson called the measure “a hastily-drafted proposal” that would turn Sacramento into an “island of high taxes.”

“We need a plan that does not handcuff our city’s economy because nothing stops a bullet better than a job,” Johnson said.

Johnson, who is running against Mayor Heather Fargo in a November run-off election, said he is “not adamantly opposed to taxes” and that he could support a plan investigated by the city’s police union to get a tax increase on a future ballot to help pay for the city’s public safety needs over the next decade.

City Councilmember Sandy Sheedy and a handful of law enforcement officials also attended Johnson’s press conference at the Sacramento Fire Department’s I Street station in downtown Sacramento.

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