After a decade of deficit spending, the Bear Valley Community Services District is on its way to being back in the black. But it will lose its post office and emergency dispatch center to get there.
Since voters rejected Measure G in June, BVCSD General Manager David Edmonds and the Board of Directors have been making cuts and working to balance the district's budget.
So far, Edmonds says he has been able to reduce the district's deficit from $900,000 to approximately $170,000 annually.
“I reduced everything as far down as I could get it without changing the services level,” Edmonds said in an interview with Tehachapi News. “But it didn't get us all the way there.”
Ultimately, the board decided to close the post office located in Bear Valley come Jan. 1 and to outsource its dispatch operations. Until July of this year, Bear Valley provided dispatch for its community as well as for the Tehachapi Police Department.
“What this, in essence, will do is allow them (the board) to spend money on something that isn't police or dispatch,” Edmonds said.
The Bear Valley Police Department and dispatch center account for $2.6 million of the district's general fund budget.
Approximately $1.5 million of that was covered with property tax revenue the district receives, and nearly $300,000 was received from a special tax specifically to fund police.
But that still left the district $800,000 short annually, which it would get from pulling from its savings.
Measure G was meant to bandage that budgetary wound.
“Rather than trying to collect all the money needed to fund the police department and dispatch, we just wanted to stop the bleeding,” Edmonds said.
For approximately 10 years the district has had to use $700,000 to upward of $1 million from its reserves to fund all its services.
“Common sense dictates that you can't do that forever,” Edmonds said.
So the district's Board of Directors authorized outsourcing the dispatch operation.
Because Tehachapi had a higher call volume than Bear Valley, when TPD took dispatch in-house, the district had a big decrease in calls.
Bear Valley Police Chief Jeff Kermode said he has been talking with the Kern County Sheriff's Office to potentially take over some of the district's dispatch operations.
“We would do our own dispatch from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.,” Kermode said. “Then hit the switch and it would go to the agency.”
“It's not a done deal,” Edmonds said. “But the budget was adopted by the board to close dispatch.”
If the deal goes through, the district will save nearly $1 million in general fund money, Edmonds said.
"We spend $1,016,000 each year for dispatch, they (would) do it for $94,000," Edmonds said.
Edmonds aims to have the deal finalized by the end of the year.
“The Kern County Sheriff's Office feels that because of our activity level, they can absorb the operation without having to increase staff,” Kermode said. “Any other smaller agencies would have to hire additional staff, which would bring the cost up.”
As for the post office at Bear Valley, which will be closed as of Jan. 1, Edmonds said it is a matter of sustainability.
“Since it opened 15-plus years ago, we have put in anywhere from $60,000 to over $100,000 to keep it open,” Edmonds said. “We have been subsidizing the federal government. We do everything a normal post office would do, and they only pay us $100 a year to keep it open. We don't get a percentage of the profits. We get nothing.”
With these changes, Edmonds said the general budget will back in black to the tune of $350,000 to $400,000.
“Not only are we balanced but we have freed capital up,” Edmonds said. “No one likes to lose something, but it's purely economics and finance.”