The Chula Vista City Council on Tuesday voted in support of city staff to draft language for a half-cent sales tax measure to appear on the November ballot with an accompanying advisory measure where voters get to advise the council how sales tax revenue should be spent.
The council voted in favor four to one, with Councilman John McCann against.
The council will vote in June on the language.
The measure, if approved by voters, is said to help keep the city running by offsetting the $550 million infrastructure deficit by increasing the sales tax from 8 percent to 8.5 percent as it will generate about $15 million each year, or about $165 million over 10 years, according to city officials.
Chula Vista Mayor Mary Casillas Salas said she supports the tax measure because it will improve the city.
“With more than 60 percent of our budget going to pay for police and fire departments, we simply do not have enough money to properly care for our infrastructure — our streets, storm drains, parks, recreation centers, fire stations, and to replace aging fire trucks and police cars,” Casillas Salas said. “This temporary half-cent sales tax will help us take care of our critical infrastructure needs, improve our quality of life and improve our economy.”
McCann, who voted against a sales tax increase in 2009 and a cell phone tax, said in a telephone interview he is against this tax measure because it does not make the city fiscally responsible.
“A sales tax hurts our working families the most, they bear the biggest brunt and it puts a burden on our small businesses to be competitive,” he said. “Our sales tax revenue is one of the last in the county, we need to be a small-business friendly city and this does the opposite.”
The revenue generated from the measure will not specifically be earmarked for infrastructure, because the tax measure will appear on the ballot as a general fund tax measure.
The city hired the consulting firm True North to conduct a scientific survey of the community, in total 800 residents were surveyed and results from the survey found that a simple majority measure had a better chance of passing over a two-thirds measure that would have earmarked the measure for infrastructure.
“The con of the sales tax approach is that you don’t have specificity as to what you’re going to use those funds for, especially if you go for a 50 plus one vote,” said City Manager Gary Halbert said.
With the revenue going to the general fund, city staff has recommended to the city council to have an oversight committee and possibly having language in an ordinance that emphasizes funding for infrastructure, Halbert said.
The oversight committee would be similar to a bond oversight committee as they would be tasked with monitoring how the money is spent.
McCann said he is concerned with how the city council will spend revenue from sales tax since it will be allocated to the general fund.
“This would be a general sales tax, so if passed, by law the city could spend it on anything,” he said.” I would hope that it would be spend on infrastructure but the city council could spend it on anything.”