By Derek Timm, Scotts Valley Mayor
Our Scotts Valley Police Officers do so much for our community, and everyone in leadership agrees that we want to support them in every way we can. To say this year has been difficult is an understatement, not only for our police but for all our businesses and our community members.
At the beginning of March, if Measure Z had failed, budget projections showed our City being in the red in 2021 and heading toward a financial reckoning. But Measure Z succeeded, and we were all feeling hopeful about the City being able to provide pay increases to our officers, as well as solidify the finances of the City.
However, that relief soon turned to concern when just two weeks later, the first Covid lockdown began. As hotels and restaurants shuttered, so did our hope about the state of City finances. Projections showed our City budget down nearly 20%. To make matters worse, the pandemic made it impossible to predict when revenues would return, or what the future economic climate would look like.
As a result of the budget, we had to lay off long standing and well-loved City staff, make many strategic shifts and change our focus to the City’s survival. Measure Z was to go into effect on July 1, and that now became a life-raft—rather than a rescue boat. To add insult to injury, we then faced wildfires and evacuations which further hurt City finances. While the Sheriff and other cities in our county began laying off officers, we were able to maintain because of Measure Z and our caution. As the year evolved, the budget picture began to look a little better—but mostly because much of the savings were from unfilled positions that were frozen.
At year end, our hotels are not back to normal, and are now facing a second shutdown. The TOT tax revenue the City receives from hotels, was down nearly 30%, plus there are losses the City is still facing from the shutdown that will come out of our general fund. The latest lockdown will last a minimum of three weeks, and its budget impacts are unknown at this point. Restaurants receipts were down 50-60% during the first lockdown, and we anticipate similar losses with the current shutdown, with resulting budget impacts. Our retail sales receipts on the other hand were not down as much as anticipated, and our City began receiving some tax revenue from online shopping, which has helped.
It is never a good plan to spend with reckless abandon, and as stewards of our City’s budget, we must instead spend carefully with mindfulness to what our community can support based on real data. No one could have predicted what 2020 had in store for us, and we are following the financial recommendations made by economists and financial analysts. To have our Police Department feeling undervalued breaks my heart. We hold our PD in such high esteem, and their importance to us this year cannot be overstated.
It is easier to point fingers at each other than to point them ahead. Let’s instead point toward the future together where we can get our Police Department back to full staffing. If you see an SVPD officer, say thank you. Their sacrifices this year will not be forgotten. From this tragic year, our City will emerge stronger, and we hope to be able to provide our PD with funding that matches our gratitude.
Derek Timm is the Mayor of Scotts Valley. His views are his own, and not necessarily those of the Press Banner. Contact Timm at [email protected].