A Year After Measure L Defeat, Upland Is Thriving

Moving on to a year after Upland voters rejected Measure L, which would have imposed a half-cent sales tax increase on non-food and non-pharmaceutical transactions in the 15.6-square mile city, City Hall appears to have bypassed the dire financial consequences city officials warned would occur when they were promoting the tax.
Citing the pending complete discontinuation of special federal and state funding provided to cities as special augmentations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the anticipated deficit that would result in, Mayor Bill Velto and councilmen Rudy Zuniga and Carlos Garcia, Councilwoman Shannan Maust and then-Councilwoman Janice Elliott used their authority to place an initiative, subsequently designated Measure L by the San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters Office, on the November 8, 2022 ballot.
Upland Treasurer Greg Bradley, Upland Parks Committee Member Sarah Lee, Upland resident James Thomas, retired Upland Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Loren Sanchez and retired Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriff Susan Higgins Coniglio, standing in for Mayor Velto and the city council, in the summer of 2022 stated “Without the local funding Measure L will provide, Upland will be forced to cut vital public safety services. Today, Upland cannot afford to maintain basic local services like local street, alley, or pothole repair, clean up piles of trash and litter that people dump along streets and sidewalks, maintain our parks, or address homelessness.
Unless we keep our taxpayer dollars local, Upland will have no choice but to further cut vital street, storm drain, waterway, and sidewalk repairs, costing we taxpayers millions as repairs cost more in the future.
local business leader Jason Gaudy, Bradley, Lee, Thomas and both attorney Jason Gaudy and retired Upland Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Loren Sanchez, again speaking for Velto, Zuniga, Garcia, Maust and Elliott, told Upland residents, “Upland services have been slashed to the bone and cannot be cut further without impacting the services you expect and deserve. Without Measure L, we won’t be able to keep the number of police officers patrolling our neighborhoods.
Your Yes on L vote is the only thing that will allow current sidewalk repair programs to continue.
Unless we act, Upland will have to cut police officers on top of 14 unfilled police positions, making our neighborhoods less safe. Without Measure L, our streets, sidewalks, trees, parks, and storm drains will worsen, affecting your cars and all our wallets as we must pay more to repair in the future. Measure L will allow us to address the basic quality of life services we all need.”
Eleven months after Measure L was defeated, with 10,222, or 44.6 percent of the 22,919 Upland residents participating voting in favor of it and 12,697 or 55.4 percent voting against it, Upland officials maintain there has been no diminution in the quality of life in the City of Gracious Living.
A circular inserted by the city in the most recent utility billing sent to Upland residents states, “The City of Upland has passed a balanced budget for the 2023/2024 fiscal year – the first time in four years that the budget was balanced without using one-time funding. Despite rising costs, the city tkes pride in the fact that our departments are performing outstanding work with the resources they have. We will continue to seek additional revenue sources to improve the quality of life in Upland. Faster 9-1-1 police response times, getting potholes fixed quicker, citywide street improvements, and sidewalk repairs remain top priorities we are working to address in the future.”
The circular continues, “The good news is that Upland’s fiscal condition remains stable and there are signs of improvement. The city council’s thoughtful and measured response to our fiscal situation has kept Upland on a sustainable financial path while the city continues to provide core services. Looking forward to the next five years, we must focus on safeguarding our operating reserves and make strategic financial decision to ensure that we have a resilient city over the long-term. With this year’s budget, the general fund will cover all the recent staffing additions to our police department made initially two years ago with one-time funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. The city council prioritized identifying long-term funding for these new police position so they wouldn’t go away when the one-time funding ended.”
An assertion made in promoting Measure L last year was that Upland is underpayng its city employees, most notably its police officers, and that with other cities in the region offering their employees higher salaries and more generous benefits, Upland was in danger of losing its best employees, including its police officers, to other jurisdictions.
According to the circular, the city employee pay issue has been addressed.
“Another accomplishment was the recent completion of new memorandums of understanding with the city’s four bargaining groups,” the circular states. “The city council supported efforts to retain our valuable employees and implemented a classification and compensation study that brings Upland employees to the median salary of our comparable agencies,” which the circular clarified consisted of “12 local cities of a similar size.” According to the circular, “Negotiations with the city’s four bargaining groups yielded long-term agreements that give the city the labor security essential for efficient operations over the long-term.”
Furthermore, according to the circular, “[N]otable capital improvement projects are scheduled for completion this fiscal year, including the Arrow Highway rehabilitation project, which is bringing new pavement from North Benson to North San Antonio avenues at a cost of over $11 million and the multi-year construction of Reservoir 15 at over $17 million, an infrastructure investment which will provide clean water storage for many years to come.”

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