The Davis City Council voted Tuesday to make clear ballot language for a proposed extension of an existing sales tax and an additional half-cent increase to be put the voters June 3.
The city is facing a $5.1 million deficit even after years of internal cuts. Staff has said that although more could be cut to reduce the deficit, city services like police, fire and street sweeping could suffer as a result under one scenario that shares the pain across city departments. Another scenario would spare public safety, but force deep cuts to other city services, placing many of the programs, services and activities residents have come to expect on the chopping block.
Measure O, as it’s now called, read this way before Tuesday night: “Shall Ordinance No. 2432, which would authorize the city of Davis to continue to collect a sales and use tax for general government purposes at the total rate of 1 percent through Dec. 31, 2020, be adopted?”
That paragraph is supposed to convey that an existing half-cent sales tax is set to expire in 2016, but the city wants it extended to 2020. It is also supposed to convey that the city is looking to levy an additional half-cent sales tax this election. The total tax would be 8.5 percent, taking into account the state sales tax.
City staff gave the council three options owing to their belief that the “smallest possible change should be made to the measure language to clarify the purpose of the measure,” a staff report reads. “By the time council deliberates on possible amendments, deadlines will have already passed related to the materials in support or opposition to the measure.”
The report said pro and con arguments for the voter pamphlet, as well as the city attorney’s analysis, were submitted March 7.
The council unanimously chose the second of three options, modified slightly:
Wednesday’s story clarifying the ballot language of Measure O, the city’s proposed sales tax hike on the June 3 ballot, omitted one important phrase. The official language is: “Shall Ordinance No. 2432, which would authorize the city of Davis to reauthorize and extend the existing half-cent sales and use tax for general government purposes and increase the sales and use tax by an additional half-cent, for a combined one-cent tax, through Dec. 31, 2020, be adopted?”
While the new ballot language is clearer, opponents of the measure have wasted no time criticizing the city’s language foible.
The political action committee No Parcel Taxes PAC has been revived from past school district elections for a bout against the city, which plans to potentially place a parcel tax on the November ballot. The group criticized the prior wording of Measure O in a news release that listed 10 ways that the wording was wrong or misleading.
Spokesmen Jose Granda and Thomas Randall said they believe the city has not justified its need for the higher tax.
“Why should Davis residents pay for their mismanagement of $5.1 million of taxpayers’ money?” Granda asked, referring to the size of the city’s projected budget deficit. “…They are treating Davis residents as an ATM machine where money is readily available every time they run the city’s budget in the red.”
— Reach Dave Ryan at email@example.com or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @davewritesnews