Sacramento discusses shifting $15M in Measure U taxes away from police and fire services

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — The Sacramento City Council discussed on Tuesday a formal request to reallocate money in the budget that is partly earmarked for police and fire services.

In 2018, 57% of Sacramento voters chose to increase the sales tax a penny through Measure U, raising around $95 million for city services, including economic development in underserved communities.

The advisory committee set up to oversee how the money is spent is now asking that $15 million be taken from public safety budgets to benefit communities that it feels are ignored.  

“What we’ve seen is that every single year we’ve seen a drastic increase in police, and more recently also in fire, in terms of the money that has been spent, and next to nothing for economic development that’s been promised,” said Flojaune Cofer, the chair of the Measure U Oversight Committee.

Police and fire unions told FOX40 that Measure U was specifically aimed at restoring cuts made to public safety.

“I think it would be totally wrong to take the money that voters intended to go toward restoring services in police and fire and put it somewhere else,” said Tim Davis, the president of the Sacramento Peace Officers Association.

The advisory committee said it’s looking at the bigger picture in trying to keep people feeling safe.

“Are police the best way for us to achieve this, in the way we’re doing it right now? Or should we invest in some of the other things our community is asking for, like housing, or like jobs or like economic development?” Cofer asked.

More than the money it wants shifted, the committee wants to use a polling mechanism and a process where citizens can choose what they want to spend the extra money on.

The more inclusive budgeting process includes more underrepresented citizens in the city but the police union said it’s the city council’s job to represent residents on spending.

“To have one group come in and say ‘this is what we want’ and say it’s what the whole community wants is disingenuous,” Davis said. “Our community at large wants more police services not less.”

But changing the way budgeting decisions are made resonated with some council members.

There was some sentiment to test out the citizen budgeting process with some initial spending to get it underway.

Mayor Darrell Steinberg said it can be done without making drastic cuts in police funding.

“It is an opportunity here and I think we ought to take it,” Steinberg said.

Steinberg has said he is against defunding police and the citizen input budgeting process is about prioritizing services that can also include police and fire funding.

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