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King City balances budget, plans new sales tax measure

Rising crime and facility repairs also among topics at State of the City address

Col. Lisa Lamb (left), garrison commander of Fort Hunter Liggett, and King City Mayor Mike LeBarre deliver their community updates as part of the Feb. 16 State of the City luncheon, during which LeBarre announced the city will have a balanced budget for the first time since 2005. (Sean Roney)

KING CITY — King City Mayor Mike LeBarre announced the city has reached a balanced budget for the first time in 16 years during last week’s State of the City luncheon.

“This year for the first time since June 30, 2005, the City of King will have paid off all of its debt and will have a positive general fund,” LeBarre said to the audience gathered in the Orradre Building at the Salinas Valley Fairgrounds on Feb. 16.

He characterized positive progress as the result of teamwork, not only between city agencies, but also with community groups, volunteers, representatives and neighboring jurisdictions, such as Fort Hunter Liggett.

While LeBarre and area leaders addressed numerous accomplishments and plans for progress, they also noted the city’s challenges and problems yet to be solved.

“Despite all the progress we’re making, the city still has some really significant needs that are still unfunded that need to be addressed,” City Manager Steve Adams said. “Given the length of the financial crisis we have been through, we have a tremendous list of upgrades and repairs that have been deferred for a really long time.”

Adams said staff analysis of the most pressing needs would take a projected cost of $2 million. The city has identified areas of critical need, including maintenance of city facilities, street improvements, public safety and park maintenance.

“We determined the best option to address these needs would be another local sales tax measure,” Adams said.

He explained the proposed sales tax would work because a large portion of sales tax is paid by people outside King City, and the city’s sales tax rate is at least half a cent lower than most cities in Monterey and San Luis Obispo counties.

“Even with the increase, we could maintain a competitive and standard rate and it would generate the revenue to fund most of these needs,” Adams said. “The last sales tax measure and all the other budget measures that we put in place are doing what we intended them to do.”

Tackling rising crime

King City Police Chief Keith Boyd discussed the operations of the police department and plans for the future. However, he first addressed the increase in violent crime.

“In 2021, unfortunately, we did experience four homicides in the City of King, ending a multi-year period where none had occurred,” Boyd said. “In each case, video footage obtained from the citywide camera system, as well as residential and commercial security cameras, provided significant evidence to assist in the investigations.”

In the two cases, a total of eight suspects were identified, with six arrests made and two warrants issued.

Overall, King City saw a 24% reduction of crimes reported in 2021 compared to 2020; however, Boyd explained that statistic is deceptive.

“When we look specifically at violent crime, such as rape, robbery or weapon-based assaults, we saw a 147% increase,” he said.

Boyd noticed Covid-19 resulted in changes to the justice system, including zero bail, reduced court filings and reductions in inmate population, which led to more offenders being in the community while court proceedings were underway.

He added that staffing would soon be addressed by the hiring of two lateral officers by the end of March. Moving forward, the police department has plans to upgrade tablet and camera systems to increase officer capabilities and provide increased accountability.

Also of note was the department’s first drone, which Boyd said would begin operation by July 4, in time to use heat signatures to assist in the citation of firework-related crimes. The department has also obtained grants to increase cameras in town through camera share programs with private property owners.

King City Police Chief Keith Boyd speaks during the Feb. 16 State of the City luncheon, where he explained the city has seen a 147% rise in violent crime from 2020 to 2021. (Sean Roney)

New businesses on the way

LeBarre also highlighted some new businesses that are coming to King City.

“We have an application for a new Grocery Outlet (discount supermarket) and a Dutch Bros. (drive-thru coffee shop) development on Broadway Street near San Antonio,” LeBarre said. “We also anticipate plans to be submitted soon for commercial development of the downtown on the corner of Second and Broadway Street.”

He noted permits have been issued for a cannabis dispensary at the Forum on Broadway, and a cannabis cultivation business on San Antonio Drive is nearing completion. 

Affordable housing is also in the works, along with a supportive housing project to address the growing homelessness issue in the city.

“The thing I really love about this community is we are a community of individuals, but individuals that come together for the benefit of the community,” LeBarre said. “We’re a team.”

A city with momentum

Adams mentioned the city is moving in a positive direction.

“We really think with a little bit of luck, the next few years are going to be an exciting time in King City,” Adams said.

Among the positive developments noted were the approval of a $1.5 million grant to design and work on pre-construction for the Multi-Modal Transit Station platform; a submitted application for a $7.5 million grant to build the platform; the expansion of the ProYouth program to Chalone Peaks Middle School; the approval of $2.5 million in grant funding to develop the Downtown Plaza on Broadway; the approval of $82,000 from USDA to help the fire department purchase a utility truck; a grant submission for $1 million in FEMA funding to purchase a new fire engine; two grants totaling $100,000 for a new traffic safety program; and numerous commitments for affordable housing efforts.

City Manager Steve Adams discusses the idea of a new sales tax measure in King City during the Feb. 16 address. (Sean Roney)

Fort Hunter Liggett update

Col. Lisa Lamb, garrison commander of Fort Hunter Liggett, highlighted the social media updates and community events open to the public. 

She also noted the Army’s new climate action strategy would see energy efficient buildings, and the use of hybrid and electric vehicles at the base, as the Army moves toward updating non-tactical vehicles. The base will install charging stations, as well.

Lamb also addressed the connective lanes between the base and King City.

“Most of you are aware of the much-needed repair on Jolon Road,” Lamb said. “We’re working closely with Monterey County Supervisor Chris Lopez on this issue.”

She urged community members to keep important issues, such as Jolon Road, at the forefront with their elected officials.

Lamb noted FHL supported 11,000 troops this past quarter, which included American and British forces, as well as local police and firefighters.

“It is my goal and my pledge to all of you to continue developing partnerships between our communities and providing support to the amazing City of King,” she said.

Lifelong improvements for all

Kendra Howell of the Blue Zones Project also spoke about the launch of Blue Zones Project Monterey County in King City. The program is a health and wellness initiative aimed as improving and lengthening the lives of all community members.

“We are so thrilled to work with this community,” Howell said. “It is about engaging with the community on all levels.”

Howell highlighted the community engagement and leadership that would be necessary for such an initiative to take root and succeed. She said Blue Zones is expected to kick off in King City toward the end of summer.