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Measure H implementation
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Last November Ceres voters approved Measure H, a half-cent sales tax to increase the number of police and firefighters in this community. The following is an update on the implementation of Measure H.

Although the new tax took effect on Jan. 1, 2008, the actual collection of it did not begin until April 1, since the state required several months to notify retailers and to set up for the change in tax disbursements to the City of Ceres. We then received our first Measure H check from the state in the last 30 days. It is anticipated that Measure H revenues will be approximately $1.8 million annually, allowing for the hiring of 11 new police officer positions and eleven new firefighters during the next several years. The actual number of new sworn (fire and police) positions may be higher or lower than estimated based on changes in tax revenues. Even with a faltering economy, we believe that the hiring of 22 new personnel during the next seven years is a likely scenario.

This year alone, the city has already hired three new firefighters, making for the first three-person fire engine company at Fire Station No. 1. These additional positions will provide for improved firefighting and emergency intervention capabilities, while improving safety for the firefighters. As the next years arrive, each of our four fire stations will eventually end up with three-person engine companies, which, based on industry standards, is a minimum staffing configuration in the fire service. We also expect to hire two battalion chief positions within the next two to three months. Ceres Fire already has one battalion chief and with the addition of two more, we will have achieved another milestone, which is to have 24/7 shift management. This too will provided much-needed scene management and allow more firefighters to do the job of battling fires, providing emergency medical services, dealing with traffic collisions and the many other emergencies that present throughout the year.

Police Division new hirings have also begun. One new Measure H-funded police officer has already been hired, and by the end of October, a total of five new sworn police officers will have been added to the agency. With the aforementioned new officers, the total number for this agency this year will be 51 sworn officers. Three of the new officers and a sergeant will comprise the newly-formed Street Crimes Unit (SCU) which went operational on June 30, 2008 with one sergeant and one officer. We are contemplating expanding it to a five-officer unit depending on workload demand. The SCU is designed to address criminal street gangs, drug houses, drug-dealing and other crimes that impinge the safety and quality of life in this community.

These new positions would not have been possible without the support of the voters in this community. The timing for Measure H could not have been better. Ceres has been laboring for many years with a serious public safety staffing shortage. Now with the budget difficulties facing most cities, our situation without Measure H would have become even worse. Many cities are now freezing or eliminating police and firefighter positions because of budget shortages. Ceres, however, is actually increasing the number of firefighters and police officers. We are most appreciative of the support and confidence so many of you have shown the Ceres Department of Public Safety. We strive to provide the best service possible with the resources you have given us.