City of Ventura breaks down the $15 million Measure ‘O’ funds being distributed to city services

Clouds+roll+away+from+the+city+of+Ventura+on+March%2C+14%2C+2020+in+Ventura%2C+CA.+Photo+credit%3A+Ryan+Bough

Clouds roll away from the city of Ventura on March, 14, 2020 in Ventura, CA. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

By Rachel Franklin

The City of Ventura’s Measure O Citizen Oversight Committee met virtually to discuss the distribution of funds generated from Measure O amongst seven departments for the 2020-2021 fiscal year.

Measure O is a 25-year, half cent transaction and use tax estimated to annually generate $10.8 million in revenue for Ventura. According to the highlights of the Measure O Audit Report provided by City of Ventura Finance and Technology Director Michael Coon, revenue generated by Measure O increased from $13.4 million in the 2018-2019 fiscal year to $13.8 million in the 2019-2020 fiscal year.

Greg Morley, the City of Ventura’s Financial Analysis and Planning Manager, explained how revenue was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Actually that was a pleasant surprise in year 19-20 because when the COVID pandemic hit, … it seemed like every third day there was another prediction of loss of revenue,” said Morley. “Obviously when you shut down an entire economy, sales tax revenue is one of the first ones to be hit, so we rebounded rather well in 2019-20.”

The City of Ventura’s $15 million budget for Measure O expenditures mainly focuses on the Public Works, Police, Parks and Recreation, Fire, City Manager and Community Development Departments, respectively. A small portion of expenditures is dedicated to a non-departmental category.

According to Morley, those departments work to maintain fire, police and paramedic response times, keep all fire stations open, protect local rivers, beaches and coastal waters from water pollution and improve services for youth, senior, disabled and veteran community members.

The departments also work to keep neighborhoods safe from gangs and drugs, effectively address the homelessness issue and maintain local roads, streets, bridges and essential services.

City of Ventura Financial Analysis and Planning Manager Greg Morley presents a powerpoint slide describing the 2020-21 Measure O fiscal year expenditure distribution to the Measure O Citizen Oversight Committee.
City of Ventura Financial Analysis and Planning Manager Greg Morley presents a powerpoint slide describing the 2020-21 Measure O fiscal year expenditure distribution to the Measure O Citizen Oversight Committee.

Each department briefly presented its plan for the funds this year. Notably, Fire Chief David Endaya of Ventura City Fire Department detailed how the funds support Fire Station Four’s involvement in award-winning canned-food drives, responding to red flag warnings, rip current rescues, road accident emergencies, responding to medical emergencies, specifically COVID-19 related medical emergencies, and on-duty training sessions.

“This helps keep one of our six existing fire stations open to provide that service 24/7,” said Endaya. “We’re very straightforward with what the funds are being used for and that they’re for our personnel.”

One program heavily reliant on the Measure O funds, the Safe and Clean Program, uses upwards of $1 million in expenditures to support City of Ventura’s homeless population.

Meredith Hart, Safe and Clean Program Manager, discussed in detail how the program supports Ventura City’s homeless population.

“Currently all of the contracts and the programs that we provide through Safe and Clean are ongoing,” said Hart. “So it continues to provide for me, as the Safe and Clean manager, our homeless shelter services at The ARCH… our outreach worker partnership with the county, River Haven transitional living through Turning Point Foundation and our Safe Sleep Program through The Salvation Army.”

The Parks and Recreation Department also allocates funds to the Safe and Clean Program, but most of its expenditures, approximately $2 million worth, are being used for tree trimming and median maintenance.

According to the City of Ventura’s Chief of Police, Darin Schindler, the Police Department will spend a total of roughly $2 million. The money will go towards an almost fully-staffed department, focusing on enhanced patrol, active camera monitoring and neighborhood drug and property crime reduction.

“Ventura has the distinction of having the highest property crime for any city in Ventura County. We average over 3,000 property crimes a year,” said Schindler. “[The neighborhood drug and property crime reduction unit’s] first full year being staffed was 2018. That year we saw a 4 percent reduction in property crime. Last year, its’ second full year, we saw the biggest reduction we’d seen in two decades which was a 15 percent reduction. That meant 539 fewer property crimes last year.”

The Public Works Department will next present a capital improvement plan to the Ventura City Council on March 22.