By VICTOR PATTON
September 18, 2023
The future of Measure C, a half-cent public safety tax that primarily benefits Merced’s police and fire departments, will be in voters’ hands in 2024.
Supporters of the measure have collected ample signatures to ask Merced voters in March whether the tax should be extended for another 20 years.
A Friday afternoon email from Merced County Registrar of Voters Melvin Levey to Merced city officials confirmed Measure C’s supporters did successfully reach the threshold of 3,988 valid signatures to put the issue on the March ballot.
Without an extension, the measure would sunset in 2026. It first was approved in 2006 with a 20-year lifespan.
A group of citizens called “The Committee for a Safer Merced” led by former Merced Mayor Mike Murphy, spearheaded a signature-gathering campaign in hopes of renewing the tax.
Murphy’s group formed after the Merced City Council last year blocked the tax renewal from appearing on the November 2022 ballot. “We know the overwhelming majority (of voters) in Merced want a fully-funded police department and fire department,” Murphy told CVJC.
Since 2006, Measure C has generated $105 million. It’s expected to generate $8.8 million this fiscal year. Without the half-cent tax, city officials estimate Merced could face a $7 million annual budget shortfall and lose stable funding for the police and fire departments.
In order to pass, Measure C must receive a simple majority of votes in favor of renewal.
The committee received strong backing from the city’s police and fire unions, along with many in the business community, Murphy said.
Murphy expects the committee will grow between now and March to include more volunteers who will continue spreading the word about Measure C. “This is going to be a full campaign to make sure residents understand the choices before them in March,” he said.
The only difference between the current iteration of Measure C versus the 2024 ballot version is the latest measure will be a special tax, meaning it can only be used for public safety and some road maintenance.
The current version of the measure is a general tax, meaning it can be used for any city expenditure.
Murphy said his group looked at how money was generally allocated under Measure C since its passage, and 95% went to public safety and 5% went to roads. He expects those percentages would remain the same if Measure C is extended.
RELATED STORY: Supporters of Merced’s Public Safety Tax submit signatures to put Measure C before voters in March 2024
Victor Patton is the engagement editor for the Central Valley Journalism Collaborative, a nonprofit newsroom based in Merced. Sign up for CVJC’s free Substack list and follow CVJC on Facebook.
This story was published in partnership with the Central Valley Journalism Collaborative, a nonprofit and nonpartisan community newsroom. To get regular coverage from the CVJC, sign up for CVJC’s free Substack list https://cvjc.substack.com/and follow CVJC on Facebook.