This November, voters in Santa Maria will decide whether to pass a sales tax measure.
Since 2012, advocates of Measure U say the funds have been used to make the city of Santa Maria safer.
With the addition of a fifth fully-staffed fire station and 13 police officers, both the city’s police and fire departments have been able to expand their staffing to help the growing needs of the community.
“We want to carry that forward as this city continues to get larger and more complex. We need the best. We need the best people, they need the best equipment and training, and it’s a quality of life issue for the city at large,” said Chief Phil Hansen, Santa Maria Police Department.
Measure U is now up for a vote again. This time, as a one-cent sales tax that does not have an expiration date.
Some community members would prefer not to have another tax.
“I feel like we have the safety needed so far in the city and this county so it doesn’t seem to make sense why a tax should go up for a reason like that,” said voter Eden Madrid.
Both Santa Maria’s fire chief and police chief say the loss of Measure U funding could have major implications for public safety.
“It is a little too soon to know how much it’s going to impact the fire department but when we lose that funding, that again is a fifth of our fire department, the city council and the city management is gonna have a tough decision to figure out where we’re going to make up that deficit,” said Chief Leonard Champion, Santa Maria Fire Department.
If it does pass, the departments have plans to continue growing.
The police department says it’s been unable to spend a lot of time investigating property crimes, like home burglaries, due to the shortage in detectives.
“Well frankly, I need to add detectives. We need to expand our Gang Unit. I call it a Special Enforcement Team and not a Gang Team because we use them for things like human trafficking and a number of different things,” Chief Hansen explained.
The fire department says it has equipment that needs upgrades and wants more enhanced dispatch capabilities.
“Our training tower is on our growth mitigation plan and that would be another thing that would be very beneficial to our firefighters so they don’t need to go knock on doors of our community members to train on their buildings or train in the middle of the street,” Chief Champion said.
For more information on this measure, you can check out your sample ballot or the city’s website.