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Chino’s Measure V would raise money

Chino’s Measure V would raise money for public works, law enforcement

Next month, Chino residents will vote on Measure V, a one-percent sales tax that is expected to generate an extra $28 million in revenue annually if it’s approved.

If it’s approved March 5, the Public Safety, Roads, Essential Services Protection Measure will help close a budget deficit expected to reach $15 million a year during the next five years, according to a “fact sheet” on the city’s website.

All revenue raised by Measure V will help pay for “essential services” needed to preserve the city’s quality of life, including public safety, parks and recreation, flood control and reducing homelessness.

“While Chino has witnessed anticipated revenue growth in its recovery each year, these gains are offset by the rising costs associated with services, labor, and the impact of increased inflation necessary for delivering essential community services,” the statement reads

“Operating costs will ‘crowd out’ capital investments and other strategic opportunities, leaving no funds available for these items,” the fact sheets reads.

The statement also notes that the city undertook a “financially responsible approach” when the Great Recession hit in 2008, and did the same 12 years later when the pandemic hit, by cutting the number of city employees, eliminating programs, and further delaying repairs and maintenance on public works projects.

In the short term, approval of Measure V will mean the city will be able to spend approximately $260 million on infrastructure projects and neighborhood improvements that right now have no funding: $120.3 million for drinking water and flood control, $45.8 million for parks, recreation and community beautification, $38 million for building and repairing sidewalks, $9.9 million for public safety and $3.2 million for fiber internet service that will cover the entire city.

Chino’s sales tax is 7.75 percent, but only one percent of that goes into the city’s coffers, while .75 percent goes to San Bernardino County. Six percent is earmarked for California’s general fund.

In 2023, Chino’s sales tax generated $35.5 million for the city. An 8.85 percent sales tax would have raised that figure to $63.5 million.

Chino needs more sales tax revenue because its public works projects have not been maintained as well as they should have during the past 20 years or so, according to City Manager Linda Reich.

Chino has long been fiscally conservative, so much so that it built up a $74 million surplus, but that fiscal prudence caused problems that the city must deal with.

“We’ve put away money every year, but that has come at a cost,” said Reich, who has been Chino’s city manager for the last year and a half. “We’ve deferred maintenance on a lot of things like parks and streets. It’s like we woke up one morning and realized we had a lot of things that needed to be upgraded.”

Chino’s fiscal conservatism even extended to law enforcement, the one budget city governments rarely cut.

“We have as many patrol officers now as we had five years ago, but that’s the way we do things,” Reich said. “We try to avoid making too many hires in any department. We’ve always kept our hiring to a minimum so we would have additional revenue on hand.”

The city council voted unanimously last November to put Measure V on the ballot after learning that that it will cost the city $45 million a year to maintain its public works projects once they’re upgraded, The best way to raise that money would be to raise the city’s sales tax.

Chino can only skimp on its public works maintenance for so long. Its population is currently 95,000, and it’s expected to reach 140,000 in the next 15 to 20 years, according Reich.

“If it doesn’t pass, we’ll have to go back to low-maintenance,” Reich said of Measure V, which will need a majority of votes to pass. If that happens it will remain in place unless voters were to repeal it.

Not everyone believes Measure V is necessary.

“It’s a money-grab,” said Chuck Bridges, 71, a Chino resident since 2017. “The question no one is asking is, do they really need all of that money? I don’t think it’s clear that they do. Over the past few years, revenue and expenditure have been balanced. They’ve grown at the same pace.”

Bridges, a retired private equity consultant, said he doesn’t believe Chino has failed to maintain its police department – probably the top priority of any municipal government – nor does he believe its infrastructure is crumbling.

“I don’t think the Measure V is about fixing streets and improving public safety,” said Bridges, who said he knows of no organized opposition to the proposed tax. “I think they figured they can raise another $28 million a year, so why not do it?”

Much of what the city wants to upgrade can be paid for with revenue from the state or San Bernardino County, not just the city’s general fund, according to Bridges.

“You have to look at this from the perspective of the size of government,” said Bridges, who described himself as a “moderate conservative” politically. “It will raise a lot of money, enough to enlarge the size of Chino’s government by 25 percent. That concerns me.”

Should Measure V pass – and Bridges said he believes that it will – Chino’s 8.75 percent sales tax would be the same as Ontario, Redlands, Corona and San Bernardino and only slightly below Montclair’s nine percent.

Chino intends to remain fiscally conservative regardless of whether or not Measure V is passed, but the city probably would have been better off if had dealt with its deferred maintenance issues sooner.

“Ten years ago, all of the things we are talking about doing would have been a lot less expensive to fix,” Reich said.

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