Members of the community listened to updates about high-speed rail, an oil and gas tax, public safety and education in a speech delivered by Kern County Supervisor Zack Scrivner at the Greater Tehachapi Economic Development Council meeting April 3.
California High-Speed Rail is moving forward with the project from Merced to Bakersfield, and currently 119 miles from Madera to Wasco is under construction. The funds come from a $2.55 billion federal economic stimulus grant, and $9.95 billion of general obligation bonds, Micah Flores, information officer for the California High-Speed Rail Authority, said in an interview.
Scrivner said he introduced a resolution at the Kern County Board of Supervisors' March 12 meeting, calling on the state to abandon the project. The board voted 4-1 to support his plan.
“That money could be better spent on our highway systems and our water infrastructure, which is the lifeblood of California,” Scrivner said. He added that the next step is to send correspondence to boards in the other 57 counties in California encouraging the same conclusion.
Oil and gas tax
Scrivner and the Kern County Board of Supervisors recently voted unanimously to send a letter to California Sen. Bob Wieckowski opposing SB 246, the oil and gas severance tax introduced in the California Legislature on Feb. 11.
“We produce 78 percent of the oil in the entire state of California. What this will do is place a disproportionate tax on the County of Kern that goes directly into the black hole, otherwise known as the state general fund. That is absolutely not fair for Kern County to be taxed to that level,” said Scrivner. He added that the tax would affect school districts, special districts, jobs in energy, reduce pay for county services and the budget of Kern County.
The 10 percent tax on all oil and gas production “will inevitably constrain investment in petroleum production, resulting in concurrent loss of direct and indirect economic activity, employment, income, income tax revenues and sales tax revenues,” said a letter sent by the Kern County Board of Supervisors on March 12 to Wieckowski.
It added, “Over 21,000 Kern residents are directly employed by oil and gas producers and another 40,000 residents are employed thanks to the indirect and induced impacts of the oil and gas industry.”
Changes in the economy have an impact on the oil industry in Kern County.
“In January 2015, the county declared a fiscal emergency and instituted a four-year Deficit Mitigation Plan in order to absorb a $44.5 million loss in oil and gas property tax revenue that resulted from the rapid decline in the market value of oil,” said a letter from Ryan J. Alsop, county administrative officer of Kern County, to Wieckowski on March 12.
The bill would require approval by two-thirds vote from the membership of each house of the legislature to pass, according to leginfo.legislature.ca.gov.
Retention and recruitment for Kern County Sheriff’s Office has been a challenge due to pay levels. The Kern County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted March 12 to increase an entry-level sheriff's deputy pay by 18.5 percent, bringing them up to pay scales used by the Bakersfield Police Department, said Scrivner.
More opportunities for high school students to obtain a two-year college degree while still in high school are already in the works, with McFarland High School offering the Early College Initiative program through Bakersfield College.
The initiative was launched at McFarland High School on Feb. 13 and it is one of the first high schools to offer 280 incoming freshmen the opportunity to complete high school and transfer directly to a four-year college or university, said a letter from Teresa Hitchcock, assistant county administrative officer of Employers Training Resource, to the Board of Supervisors April 2.
- The Tehachapi Visitor Center is in need of more volunteers who can regularly volunteer their time.
- Tehachapi Unified School District is set to announce the appointment of a new superintendent. This is scheduled at the 6 p.m. April 9 regular board meeting at 300 S. Robinson St.
- The Farmer’s Market starts May 9 and will run from 4 to 7:30 p.m. The city hosts the market every Thursday at Green Street and Tehachapi Boulevard.
- Adventist Health Tehachapi Valley President Jeff Lingerfelt announced that of all patients surveyed since the new hospital's opening, 89 percent recommended the hospital, beating the 72 percent national average.
- Dignity Health Medical Group will host free heart heath screenings, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 3 at 707 Valley Blvd.