The budget-strapped city of Parlier needs money to keep its police department open, so officials spent Saturday stumping for a parcel tax measure on the November ballot.
City officials are no strangers to tight budgets, but the city’s police force is down to 10, from 13 last year, as budget cuts sliced into staffing. For a city the size of Parlier, about 15,000, there should be one officer per 1,000 residents, said Drew Bessinger, a former Parlier police chief and Measure Q spokesman.
Outside the Mendocino Avenue police station on Saturday, police Chief Jose Flores, members of the department and city officials met with residents to drum up support for Measure Q, which would add $300,000 to $500,000 to the police department through a parcel tax.
Along with adding officers, more revenues would allow the city to apply for state and federal grants that seek matching funds from the city to leverage even more dollars for Parlier. It’s money the city doesn’t have available now, Flores said.
The cost for each homeowner is about $120 annually, with lesser amounts for apartment units, officials say.
In 1991, a nine-member police department was reinstated for what was then a city of 8,000 after nine years of Fresno County Sheriff’s Office patrols. Without additional funding, a return to sheriff’s patrols could occur again, said Bessinger.
Sheriff’s deputies became a necessity in 1982 when the city faced bankruptcy. The city is again in financial straits, anticipating a deficit of about $2 million. The city has an annual budget of about $2.4 million, said Flores.
While property owners will pick up the tab, they also will reap benefits, said Adolfo Jimenez, president of the Parlier Police Officers Association, through lower property insurance rates, faster police responses and lower crime rates.
“If it doesn’t pass, more than likely, the doors to the Parlier Police Department will close,” Jimenez said.
$500,000Measure Q would raise up to $500,000 for the Parlier Police Department
Jimenez said police officers believe the level of professionalism has improved since Bessinger, a former Clovis police captain, and Flores, a former Fresno County sheriff’s captain, took over.
“The last year has brought us a drastic and positive morale boost,” Jimenez said.
As with most police departments, budgets are unpredictable and overtime is a cost of doing business, said Flores, who succeeded Bessinger as chief this year.
“We want to be professional and we want to make sure people know what we’re doing,” Flores said. “But now that we’re running on all eight cylinders, we’re on the verge of closing.”
At the Mendocino Avenue police station Saturday, residents interested in learning about the measure were offered T-shirts, pastries, candy and water along with a tour of the police station.
Parlier incorporated in 1921 and a police department took over a few years later and stayed intact until 1982.
When the Police Department returned to Parlier in 1991, residents were looking forward to more traffic enforcement. One resident said she was upset about people parking in the middle of her street to have conversations with friends.
There is no argument filed in opposition to Measure Q.
The city of Parlier is asking residents to pay a parcel tax to support the police department
Tax: Homeowners would pay $120 per year to raise $300,000 to $500,000
Why: The city has a deficit nearing $2 million and the police department is the city’s largest expense; additional money would pay for new officers
Without it: A Fresno County Sheriff’s Office takeover would likely become necessary
When: On the general election ballot Tuesday, Nov. 8