Desert Hot Springs, California – Faced with potential loss of basic City services, and possible bankruptcy looming on the horizon, the City Council of Desert Hot Springs voted Tuesday evening to place a vacant parcel funding measure on the June 2014 ballot.
The recommended update to the existing, voter-approved Measure G parcel tax applies to vacant parcels only – with no tax increase to any other parcels or categories of taxpayers—ensuring that all property owners are paying their fair share. The measure increases the vacant parcel rate by $372.68 per acre. The proposed change will not raise the parcel tax on homeowners or other occupied parcels. It applies only to vacant parcels.
State takeaways of redevelopment and other funding, combined with reduced city revenues from the recent downturn, created an almost $3 million gap in the City’s budget. In response, the City slashed its budget by implementing pension reform, reducing employee benefits and holidays, cutting its City Hall staff by 66%, reducing employee salaries by 22 – 35%, and eliminating travel and all other non-essential spending.
“Without additional funding the City will have no choice but to implement dramatic cuts to basic city and public services or worse, declare bankruptcy,” stated Interim City Manager Bob Adams.
Adams stated that the Council’s action Tuesday evening intended to avert that scenario and keep public safety and other core basic city services afloat. “We must act decisively to stabilize our City’s financial situation, maintain our essential police, fire and 9-1-1 services, and rebuild our emergency reserves, so we can continue the City of Desert Hot Springs’s status as an independent city,” stated Mr. Adams.
The measure includes tough accountability provisions such as public expenditure reports and guaranteed annual independent audits, and none of the funds can be seized by Sacramento.