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OUR OPINION: Tax would help offset shortages in personnel
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Ceres voters have an important decision to make on Nov. 6. Besides sending two members to the City Council, and selecting a mayor, voters will have to weigh increasing the sales tax a half percent to hire more police officers and firefighters.

Nobody likes paying higher taxes. But the sales tax seems like the fairest way to obtain more revenue for police and fire. The poor are safe from the impacts of a sales tax in that groceries are not taxed and the poor aren't buying the higher ticket items. And it's not only Cereans who pay the tax, but anyone who shops in Ceres.

Because the funds are kept in Ceres and spent locally, this sales tax will carry more impact than say federal funds that are shipped off for use in other parts of the nation.

Before voters say yes or no, they need to ask themselves if they want more police officers on patrol and more firefighters on duty. They need to think about whether six new police officers and six new firefighters will make the community safer.

They also need to look at some sobering facts.

• The city has remained short on public safety personnel despite the fact that over 71 percent of the city's general fund is spent on public safety.

• The amount of activity per officer has increased by 609 percent since 2003 with the addition of only one new officer;

• Gang activity is growing more intense.

• Calls for emergency medical service has grown 65 percent at a time when Ceres has nearly 40 percent fewer firefighters than recommended to fight fires and handle EMS calls.

If it passes - a two-thirds majority is required for passage - the city could expect to reap $2.8 million the first year, $3.9 million the second year, $4.7 million the third year, $5 million the fourth year and so forth. In a decade's time, the tax could bring in $31.4 million for not only new personnel but some protective police equipment.

Nobody likes more taxes. But on the other hand, everybody likes the protection afforded by police and fire when needs arise. There's a definite tradeoff. It's just wishful thinking to think the city can hire more officers and firefighters without an increase in tax revenue.

Someone once said the definition of insanity is doing the same old thing and expecting different results. Ceres residents will continue to be short on public safety if nothing new is done.