Firebaugh holds special election

FRESNO, Calif.

Residents blame their budget problems on a utility tax and believe a new ballot measure will not only fix that tax, but put them in the black.

Aside from one or two signs you would otherwise never know that Firebaugh was holding a special election, it even caught some of the people Action News talked to by surprise.

Reporter: "Did you know there's an election?"

Firebaugh Resident: "No, I didn't know. We didn't know anything about that."

City leaders say this city of 7,000 needs two ballot measures to pass. They want to amend an existing utility tax, one that gave businesses an annual cap which city leaders say put them in the hole in the first place.

"Some of your large utility customers, they may have 5,10,15 thousand a month in utility so they're reaching that cap in the first month but still getting charged that cap for the whole year," said Ken McDonald, City Manager.

Which then meant the city had to pay all those businesses back, and last fall the refund amount totaled more than $750,000.

"They ended up spending revenue they thought they had but finding out it wasn't there so it became a large reduction in revenue that was unknown before the year started and found out after the year ended," McDonald said.

They are also hoping voters will pass a 5 percent cell phone tax, that money will go directly into the general fund and police officers say it will keep them on patrol.

Juan Castillo a Firebaugh police officer says Firebaugh police have cut down a lot in recent years they are now down to nine people.

"In the past year, two years, we've been seeing an increase in crime," Castillo said.

Felipe Perez says he has seen an increase too. He's been on a mission, to urge people to go to the polls.

"I tell everybody you need to vote on this election and say yes, we need the police department here in Firebaugh," Perez said.

Ten percent of the registered voters in Firebaugh have already voted elections officials hope more people will turn out on Tuesday, which is of course election day.

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