Apple Valley to cut services after Measure O fails on the November ballot (November 15, 2020)

  • Temporary shut down of golf course, law enforcement reductions on table

With the failure of Measure O on the Nov. 3, 2020, ballot, town officials have announced cuts to services in anticipation of a multi-million-dollar budget deficit.

Days after Apple Valley voters defeated Measure O, a proposed 1% sales tax increase, town officials announced the first of what will likely be multiple rounds of budget cuts designed to address a looming revenue deficit of $4.5 million in the upcoming budget year.

Immediate cuts hit recreation programs and staffing. Meanwhile, the Apple Valley Golf Course, which costs the town an estimated $500,000 annually, could face a temporary closure, according to a press release.

Beginning Nov. 30, the town will close the Civic Center Park Aquatic Center located at 14999 Dale Evans Parkway and its Distance-Learning Day Camp, which was developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. An after-school activities program the town funds in partnership with the Apple Valley Unified School District will not resume this year.

Additionally, town officials have instituted a hiring freeze for the foreseeable future, and three open positions on staff will not be filled. Apple Valley spokesperson Orlando Acevedo told the Daily Press last week that the positions are in the town’s Public Works and Parks and Recreation departments. Town officials held the positions vacant pending the outcome of last week’s election.

These are difficult times and while we are disappointed in the results, we appreciate the community’s input, Mayor Scott Nassif said in response to Measure O’s defeat. We’ve significantly curbed spending over the last few years but will now have to make deeper cuts to parks, recreation, and public safety, unfortunately, to live within our means.

Updated unofficial election results released Friday showed that nearly 66.3% of Apple Valley voters cast ballots against Measure O, according to the San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters. Yes votes accounted for 33.7% of the total vote.

Had the measure passed, town officials projected upwards of $7 million in new revenue from the sales tax increase.

The funds would have paid for San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies, road construction, and the improvement of parks and ball fields. It also would’ve funded community events, concerts and recreation programs, as well as provide reserves for preparation of future crises or revenue impacts, according to previous reports.

A total of 31,282 votes have been tallied thus far for Measure O. The registrar’s office estimates that 51,500 ballots remain untallied in the county; however, not all of those ballots will affect vote totals in Apple Valley. Election results will be certified early next month.

The question before the community was whether or not they would support an increase in the local sales tax rate to raise additional revenues needed for rising costs of police, parks, and other town services, Town Manager Doug Robertson said. The response was a resounding no.

Facing Measure O’s projected defeat, Robertson will make recommendations to the Town Council in the coming months to further reduce expenses. One anticipated cut is the temporary closure of the Apple Valley Golf Course, which would save an estimated $500,000 per budget year, the press release said.

Reducing the number of deputies and sheriff’s staff is also on the table in Apple Valley to stabilize the escalating cost of law enforcement services and potentially save estimated $1.5 million.

Earlier this year, the Town Council renewed its contract for law enforcement services with the sheriff’s department through June 2021, a move that cost approximately $15 million. The new contract included a $1.5 million increase from last year’s contract. Town officials expect the amount paid for law enforcement to climb to nearly $20 million by 2025.

The press release said the year-over-year increase simply outpaces the growth of town revenues, particularly as COVID closures and economic impacts have decimated municipal finances throughout California and beyond.

Town officials will also consider staff furloughs that will close town offices and buildings to the public two days per month, resulting in an estimated cost savings of $1.16 million.

The town said the anticipated budget cuts follow previous steps made by Robertson in 2018 to reduce spending. The cuts included eliminating two assistant town manager positions, cutting employee compensation and benefits, and closing Virginia Park near north Apple Valley.

According to the town, employee compensation was one area widely speculated as an opportunity for cost savings. The town contends, however, that the annual cost of salaries and benefits totaling $10.7 million is significantly less than other municipalities.

By way of example, the press release listed Hesperia’s annual cost at $19.4 million and Victorville’s at $49.8 million.

We will discuss next steps at the Town Council meeting on Tuesday but anticipate them to occur after the first of the year in preparation of the FY 2021-2022 budget, Acevedo said.

Source: Jose Quintero, Daily Press