By Jon Nevin
Measure P is an investment in El Cajon and its future. Measure P directly invests in decreasing homelessness, reducing 911 response times, increasing firefighter staffing, creating safer neighborhoods, and beautifying parks and streets.
Nobody likes taxes. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need tax money to protect and preserve our cities. Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world. We live in a world of inequalities in funding, demographics, crime, and fire danger.
Why does El Cajon need this sales tax measure of ½% above the current rate? For many years, the City of El Cajon has done more with less. Did you know that the City of El Cajon receives less than half the proportion of property tax distribution compared with some of the wealthier cities in our county?
More affluent cities in the county, such as Encinitas, Coronado, and Carlsbad, have been permitted, by their long-standing tax-sharing agreements with the County, to retain a larger percentage of the property taxes paid by property owners. Meanwhile, cities with lower household incomes and property values are forced, because of their tax-sharing agreements, to give a larger portion of their property taxes to the County.
El Cajon receives only an 11% share of property tax distributions, while some coastal cities receive as much as a 30% share of property taxes paid. Those same cities have some of the lowest demands on their city services such as police and fire. El Cajon receives the fourth lowest percentage of property tax distribution percentage of the 16 cities in the county.
It is no secret that El Cajon has become a dumping ground for vulnerable homeless populations. It is costly and labor intensive to properly and legally reduce homeless populations, and prevent associated crime and financial liabilities caused by a large population of unhoused individuals in an area with minimal services available to them.
Even though El Cajon’s staffing rates are similar to other cities, the demand for services is much greater.
The crime rate per police officer is 30% above the county average, and the fire/ EMS calls per firefighter are 80% above the county average.
And these trends keep continuing to worsen. The inundation of homeless individuals has caused a continually increasing burden on city services, which is not sustainable.
How will Measure P funds be spent? The El Cajon City Council has already approved a tentative budget for the spending. This budget proactively focuses on our residents’ biggest concerns.
The spending plan includes allocating funds for 20 more police officers to help increase patrol, enforcement, and stolen property recovery. Funding may be used to reserve space at the county jail to aid in booking misdemeanors (something that is not allowed for most crimes and contributes to misdemeanor crimes occurring).
With over 16,000 requests for service annually, the El Cajon Fire Department now relies on outside cities to help with responses – impacting its ability to respond as quickly as possible.
Measure P will enable the City to fund additional fire engines and staffing to decrease 911 times and have better response capabilities for ever-present wildfire danger.
Measure P is structured in a way that garners bipartisan support. If approved, the City is required to have an oversight committee that includes a representative from the San Diego County Taxpayers Association. It will be the first sales tax measure to have a provision allowing the City Council to reduce the rate when possible and it can be repealed by citizen vote. It is endorsed by Republican and Democrat leaders, the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, the East County Chamber of Commerce, the El Cajon Firefighters, and the El Cajon Police Officers’ Association.
The benefits of decreasing homelessness, crime, and 911 response times, along with improving parks, streets, and public spaces, all add to the value of El Cajon. This value is not just in the quality of life, it is in keeping insurance costs down for residents and businesses, improving property values, and preserving our community. We stand for protecting El Cajon for the future and strongly support Measure P.
Nevin is with El Cajon Firefighters IAFF Local 4603.