Measure K not passing, as of press time

By: Stephanie Dumm, News Messenger Reporter
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Lincoln residents will most likely not pay a 3.75 percent utility users’ tax, with 8,439 votes against and 4,162 for Measure K as of 11 p.m. Tuesday night. There were 20 out of 31 precincts left to be counted, as of press time. Measure K, or the utility users’ tax, was put on this year’s ballot June 22 by the Lincoln City Council as a way to bring revenue into the city of Lincoln’s ailing General Fund. The General Fund provides monies for the city’s police, fire, library and recreation services, and currently has a $1.7 million structural deficit, according to previous News Messenger reports. The city estimates that the tax will bring in $2.9 million a year in revenue for the General Fund. There is a $300 annual cap for residents and a $6,000 annual cap for businesses. The tax has a four-year sunset clause, meaning residents would have to re-approve the tax by voting, according to previous News Messenger reports. If Measure K passed, both Lincoln City Manager Jim Estep and Mayor Tom Cosgrove said next year’s budget would be very similar to this year’s budget. “The police officers would not be laid off and we would expect that next year’s budget would be very similar,” Estep said. “Assuming our revenue doesn’t change, we will still work with employees for cost cutting measures.” If Measure K doesn’t pass, three police officers would lose their jobs in January since one of the four who originally received pink slips moved on to another job, according to Estep. Cost-cutting measures Estep referred to include reductions of salaries and benefits as well as “any ideas they may have to be more efficient.” Cosgrove said the city would be able to maintain staffing levels if Measure K passes. “It means that we don’t have to cut back as much on services, which means people,” Cosgrove said. The city would need to notify PG&E as well as telephone and cell phone companies of the measure’s passing immediately, and the utility companies would have 90 days to “adjust their billing system to start collecting the tax on our behalf,” Estep said. Estep said “we haven’t expected or included any of those revenues” in this fiscal year’s budget, and collection of the tax could begin as early as 90 days from now. “Then we will be doing additional research on options presented to council at the last City Council meeting (Oct. 26), to try and find a way to balance next year’s budget,” Estep said. The City Council will need to make decisions regarding budget cuts for next year, according to Cosgrove. “As we work towards adopting the budget in July, we will have to cut our costs and that will have to be a decision made as the council progresses towards adopting a balanced budget,” Cosgrove said. “There will be cuts. I don’t see any way those could be avoided. I’m not sure where the cuts will be and how deep.” Estep said adjustments to this year’s budget would not have to be made if Measure K doesn’t pass. “Our budget is intact for this year. We built the budget not anticipating new revenue so no adjustments need to be made,” Estep said. “It would only be those officers laid off after the first of the year.” Babs Causley, who voted Tuesday in Lincoln Hills, said she would have preferred a tax for “something specific,” such as police and fire. “That’s so I would know the money was going into police and fire, rather than into the General Fund,” Causley said. Kent White said he voted no on Measure K. “I voted no on anything that would cost more money in the way of taxes,” White said. “From what people tell me, there’s a lot more cutting that can be done.”