Los Banos chief counting on Measure A to pay for cops

By Corey Pride / Cpride@losbanosenterprise.comDecember 6, 2012 

The presidential election is over, but the vote most crucial to the future of Los Banos is slated for next year.

The Los Banos Police Department is gearing up to ask voters to extend Measure A.

"There are too many of our staff on Measure A for it not to (be detrimental) if it goes away," Police Chief Gary Brizzee said.

In 2009, Measure A was approved with 82 percent of the vote. It allows salaries of police officers and firefighters, which usually come out of the city's general fund, to be paid through the half-cent sales tax approved in 2004, known as Measure P. The portion of the Measure P monies being used for salaries and benefits were previously being saved to build a new police station and firefighter training tower. Measure A sunsets in January 2014.

Brizzee said he has six officers being paid through Measure A. The department has downsized through the years because of rapidly declining property and sales tax dollars that accompanied the housing market collapse in the past decade. At the peak of the housing market, some city officials estimated that 35 percent of homes in town were going through foreclosure.

The Los Banos Police Department is authorized for 37 sworn officers. In 2006, there were 48 law enforcement positions allowed.

"We're getting by right now, (but) I'd definitely welcome 48 like we used to have," Brizzee said. "We are definitely leaner."

Brizzee said in February that city staff will start its campaign for a Measure A extension. It is unclear whether the item will be placed on the June or November ballot.

In the meantime, Brizzee said his department is planning to hire its 37th officer within the first few months.

"I'd love to say we could have them on the streets in three months," Brizzee said.

Brizzee, who is also the interim city manager, said the salary for the position will come from the city's general fund, a decision made before he was pegged to temporarily lead the city.

Enterprise staff writer Corey Pride can be reached at 388-6563 or cpride@losbanos

enterprise.com.

Enterprise staff writer Corey Pride can be reached at 388-6563 or cpride@losbanos enterprise.com.

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