PINOLE -- Measure M, an eight-year renewal of Pinole's 8 percent Utility User Tax, was easily approved by voters Tuesday night by a 3-to-1 margin.
The tax on gas, electric and telephone bills, which has stood at 8 percent since 1998, brings in about $2 million a year to Pinole's general fund. As a general tax, it needed a simple majority to pass. With most precincts reporting, it was leading with 77.7 percent of the vote.
Without renewal of the tax, Pinole would be forced to lay off more than a dozen employees, including five police officers, three maintenance workers and two firefighters, city officials said this year. A police services manager, an information technology administrator, a human resources specialist, a cable-access technician and a part-time community safety specialist also would lose their jobs. The Pinole Swim Center likely would have to close, as well, unless users raise the money to keep it open.
Pinole employs 27 sworn police officers and 15 firefighters.
The layoffs are part of a Plan B standby budget that the council adopted in June in parallel with the preferred budget that assumes passage of Measure M. The measure was endorsed by the police and firefighters unions, individual City Council members and all three candidates in Tuesday's City Council race: incumbents Peter Murray and Roy Swearingen and challenger Ivette Ricco.
The preferred 2012-13 general fund budget is $10.9 million -- not counting $1.6 million in annual proceeds from a half-cent city sales tax that is accounted for separately. If Measure M fails, the budget would take an approximately $1 million hit for the last six months of the fiscal year and would have to shrink to about $8.9 million next fiscal year.
Pinole has had four straight years of staff and service cuts during which 54 full-time equivalent positions were eliminated. At last count, Pinole was down to just under 100 full-time equivalent positions.
Contact Tom Lochner at 510-262-2760. Follow him at Twitter.com/tomlochner.