At the Feb. 8, meeting of the Yucaipa Mobilehome Resident’s Association (YMRA) meeting, with approximately 30 people in attendance, several important topics were under discussion, but mostly Measure E, which addresses the 0.5% sales tax rate for increased public safety.
Yucaipa Fire Chief Grant Malinowski came, not to address any ballot issue, but to update the group on the current status of the Yucaipa Fire Department.
“I am a Yucaipa resident as well, I am definitely concerned about our community and want to see it do well,” said Malinowski. “We have the first full-time paramedic program in San Bernardino County. We have seen continual steady growth over the last four years. Last year we had 8,300 calls for service or 23 emergency calls every day from a low key call ‘my tummy hurts’ to the worst thing imaginable. Right now our response time is 6 minutes, 10 seconds and our goal is 4 to 5 minutes, which is not always achievable but that is our goal.
“The cost for prevention is phenomenal. We are an EMS service not just paramedics and there is a lot that goes into that. When the 911 call comes from your cell phone it goes to the CHP (California Highway Patrol). If you call from a landline it comes to us quicker as the cell call has to be transferred and every second counts on this.
“We do have private ambulance service here and we have a great partnership with them and they are an absolutely essential part of our EMS program. We have different missions, different staffing models, and different service models. They do provide transportation. They do a great job. They are for profit and we are a public service entity. We have three and hopefully four paramedic units in the city and you are not going to have three or four ambulance services in the city. We are 100% tax payer funded so we do not bill for services at all.
“If we go out to a critical care call, heart attack or a stroke, we will take you all the way to the hospital and hand you over to the physician or nurse. If it is a low duty call, of course we are going to get you to the ambulance, transport a paramedic to help handle and then we are going to go on to the next emergency. Our paramedics are making sure all the residents of our city and visitors to our city are getting the highest level of lifesaving service. That is a big task when you are providing services for 54,000 people plus visitors every single day,” said Malinowski.
Dave Caddell came as an interested Yucaipa resident to discuss with the group his thoughts on Measure E. Caddell is a rhis service to the Yucaipa Police Department. “I got a chance to see and work with our city council and see how the money works and what it really takes to run a Police Department,” said Caddell. “This city rates number 2 in the county as far as safety … and if we don’t feel secure in our homes, we don’t want to live here. However, Measure E does that. With this we are looking at increased staffing to better protect all of us … and the bottom line is that we need boots on the street to do that. One of our issues is the homelessness … we want to give people a hand up and not a hand out. The money for Measure E is earmarked just for public safety.”
A question was asked if the money for the 0.5% sales tax rate was or was not going into the general fund.
Caddell explained, “Every penny collected from that tax will go to the city. The state will give every penny back to Yucaipa then there will be a group of people set up to manage that money, an over site committee will guarantee it goes to its intended purpose, public safety … It’s primary purpose is for paramedic purposes, law enforcement and other public safety matters. It is not going into the general fund to be used at will. Right now the property owners in this community are charged $50 per year and that money goes to paramedic services and we have to more than double that to take care of paramedic services now because of rising costs. If you live in this town and you spend $10,000 a year on services other than the grocery store, $50 goes on that tax … so it is not a bad deal.”
Councilman Dick Riddell was at the meeting too.
“The thing that prompted this is primarily for the paramedics but also safety issues,” said Riddell. “Right now, for paramedics alone for this year we have a $750,000 deficit and that will increase over $1 million this coming year, the following year $1.3 million and the following year after that $1.6 million or so. So something has to be done and you just can’t keep funding it at this level. We were faced with a decision, ‘What are we going to do, cut back on paramedics and other safety issues or are we going to try to raise more money.’ Incidentally on police issues, the cost of police traditionally goes up 5% each year and what we receive in taxes goes up 3% a year so that is just getting out of whack too.”
Riddell went on to say, “We keep these costs separate. The money that comes in for paramedics and also police is separate in the budget. It is separate in the reports. These are public and made available to everybody. The police are contracted so that report is available to everybody. We hired a consultant who is skilled in this to give us some advice on what to do. The option to cut back on paramedic services, would require us to lay-off a paramedic crew. The ideal time on paramedic response is five minutes as was mentioned and it increased up to 6 minutes, 10 seconds this past year and it is going to keep on increasing and if we have to lay off some paramedics it will jump up two or three minutes and we will just really suffer.”
“The American Heart Association says that every one minute delay in receiving response, decreases the survivability of a patient by 10%. So the survivability of a patient keeps reducing if our calls keep getting a longer response time.”
“Are we going to get an assessment like we had 16 years ago? That assessment would go on the property owner and to raise enough money it would have to more than double the existing assessment. That requires 67% of a vote and that wasn’t a good option. Another option was to raise money just for paramedics or on safety issues for police and fire. There is a crazy thing in California, if you have a tax measure to increase a specific item like paramedics or safety issues it requires 67 1/2% to pass. If you have a measure just for the general fund it only requires 50% plus 1 to pass.
“Studies show and the consultant said the tax thing in California is so out of whack and so many people are just disgusted with it, like the gas tax for a high speed rail and that sort of thing, there are at least 25% of the people that just vote no on any tax. They don’t even read the issue. They are so disgusted they just vote no. So that cuts it down to 75% of people voting and if you had it down just for paramedics and you had to pass by 67% passage, it just wouldn’t fly.”
“The only fair thing is, to increase the sales tax and that is spread out over everybody. The paramedics and safety take care of our visitors, our renters, everybody here in town. Everyone contributes so the sales tax is the fairest way of all. The issue is of this money being spent on other issues because if it goes just into the general fund, by law it could be spent on parks or something else. Traditionally we get the money for paramedics and fire separate in the budget. The income is separate, the expenses are separate. The same thing can be done with the fire and we are going to continue to do this. This money is being raised for safety issues and not for general fund issues. We just have to take this approach because if it went just for paramedics or safety (on the ballet) the requirement to pass would be 67% of the vote and if 25% of the people are just going to vote no without even looking at it, it is just impossible for it to pass.”
Riddell said there will be an oversight committee for the funds.
“There is a possibility of a future council to be unethical or unscrupulous or something and they might want to use the money for something else. That is highly unlikely with an oversight committee. If we have rascals like that, get them out of there. This money is being raised for safety issues, it is not for general fund issues. We had to take this route because on a general fund it requires a simple majority plus one. If it goes for paramedics exclusively or for police and fire exclusively it would require a 67% vote and if 25% of the people are just going to vote no, no matter what, and I don’t blame them for doing this, they are just so disgusted with taxes that they automatically vote no. They are just so disgusted with California and all the tax issues. That’s unfortunate. This is well justified. We can’t have our paramedic program go downhill. We have state-of-the art equipment and our paramedics are the best trained in the world but the most important issue of all is the response time.”