From the daily archives: Thursday, April 14, 2011

By Luke Phillips
The Holtville City Council voted unanimously to approve a change in the language of Holtville’s contract with the Imperial County Sheriff’s Department at its  meeting Monday.
The contract stipulates that Holtville receive law enforcement services from deputies with a wide range of experience. Less experienced deputies receive a lower salary, saving the city money.
“We’ve hired a nice balance of experienced officers in our community,” said Holtville City Manager Laura Fischer. “That was our goal with this contract, to have different degrees of experience.”
According to Fischer, the change in the contact will add one sentence, giving Holtville Police Chief Gordon Johnson discretion to substitute a senior deputy for a less experienced deputy, or to promote an officer to senior deputy without changing the contract amount charged to the city.
“We are on tract in our budget for expenditures for the contract,” Fischer told the council. “Changing the language won’t in any way change the contract amount.”
Fischer says the estimated contract amount is already based on the highest range of salaries, so nothing should be changed by substituting senior officers.
Fischer also says that the police chief usually schedules his officers so that they will have extra time to help during big public events such as the annual Carrot Festival and Rib Cook-Off without adding extra overtime costs.
“The chief has really good communication with me,” Fischer said.
The council voted 4-0, with council member Colleen Ludwig absent, to approve the changes in the contract.


By Luke Phillips
Holtville City Manager Laura Fischer has proposed a new idea regarding the city’s utility users tax.
Fischer told the city council at its meeting Monday, April 11th,  that she had been looking into the utility user tax in Palm Springs and noticed that their ordinance has a built-in exemption on the tax for low-income residents. Fischer told the council that they may want to consider a similar mechanism.
“At past council meetings you said we wanted to look for ways to ease the burden,” Fischer said. “This is one way you could do that.”
Fischer said that she would be looking into the idea more deeply and would bring the item back to the council with more information at a future meeting.
Fischer told the council that they could also consider placing a measure on the November ballot that would add the relief for low-income residents.
“You’re not hard-pressed for time,” Fischer said. “You have time to compile a list of your options without moving forward too quickly.”
Fischer says the process for applying for the exemption in Palm Springs is a simple one. Residents are required to fill out a one-page application, submit their previous year’s taxes to prove that they are low income and submit copies of their utility bills. City staff is then required to review and approve each application.
“It would require a bit more work from the finance department,” Fischer said.
Fischer also said that the city doesn’t currently have all of the information that they would need to implement the system. The city’s records currently include the total amount charged for each utility for all of the city’s residents, but not for each individual resident.
“The rate impact is kind of hard to determine,” Fischer said. “There is still quite a bit of work that would need to be done if you want to move in that direction.”
Fischer says adopting the tax break would give some much need relief to those who need it without too much impact on the city’s budget.
“The low-income, the disabled, the elderly are really the ones having a hard time,” Fischer said. “The rest of us who have a better income and want to help the city can continue to do so.”

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