Jessica Cejnar / Wednesday, Aug. 5 @ 2:21 p.m. / Elections, Local Government
City Councilors Approve Tax Measure Resolution, Authorizes $9,800 Extra For Digital Info Campaign, Elections Costs
Crescent City Councilors followed their counterparts at the county on Monday and approved a resolution placing a 1 percent sales tax increase for public safety before voters on Nov. 3.
Councilors approved a budget amendment, adding $9,800 to a professional services agreement with Arcata-based PlanWest Partners, which has tapped subcontractor TBWBH Props & Measures to conduct an information campaign about the tax measure.
According to the city’s amended professional services agreement with PlanWest Partners, the consultant will be paid up to $39,900. An additional $3,500 will be spent on a digital campaign for that will include video, banner ads and social media content.
Councilors also agreed to appoint Crescent City Mayor Blake Inscore and Mayor Pro Tem Heidi Kime to an ad-hoc committee tasked with writing the argument in favor of the measure and a rebuttal against an opposing viewpoint.
“I have already begun work on this and because Mayor Pro Tem Kime is a local business owner in the city limits, I ask the Council to approve my appointment of myself and Mayor Pro Tem Kime to serve on the ad-hoc committee,” Inscore said.
According to Inscore, the money for the information campaign along with the roughly $5,000 to $7,000 cost to place the measure on the ballot will come from the city’s general fund.
If voters approve the sales tax measure, it would increase the rate within city limits from the current 7.5 percent to 8.5 percent through 2022. After a sales tax benefitting the Del Norte County Fairgrounds sunsets in 2022, the tax rate inside city limits would decrease to 8.25 percent if the city’s measure passes, according to City Manager Eric Wier.
The sales tax increase would generate $1.3 million annually, Wier said. That money would be used to help Crescent City Fire & Rescue transition into a hybrid department incorporating paid captains and volunteer staff. It would allow the Crescent City Police Department to ensure patrol officers are on duty for each shift.
The money would also be used to fix potholes, resurface streets, install and repair sidewalks and help keep the Fred Endert Municipal Pool open, according to Wier.
The tax measure would create a citizens oversight committee tasked with providing a public report on how the extra revenue will be spent. An annual audit of the tax measure will also be conducted, according to City Attorney Martha Rice.
The county is pursuing a similar 1 percent tax measure for public safety that, if approved by voters outside city limits, would apply to sales in Del Norte’s unincorporated areas.
Both sales tax measures require a majority vote of 50 percent plus 1 to pass.
The city’s proposed sales tax measure comes as it’s facing a budget deficit of nearly $800,000 due to the economic downturn the COVID-19 pandemic created, Wier said. According to numbers from the most recent quarter, the city received 30 percent less transiency occupancy taxes compared to the same quarter in 2019, Wier said.
This has resulted in a loss of hundreds of thousands fo dollars for the city, Wier said. The city’s reserves have been depleted to about $300,000, he said, which isn’t enough to pay its bills.
“There’s no clear sign there’s going to be any help coming from the federal government,” Wier said. “We’re going to be hurting from a reserve side for many many years.”
Councilors approved spending an additional $3,500 on a digital media campaign after learning from TBWBH Props & Measures Partner Joy Kummer that they could potentially reach more people.
According to Kummer the original cost of $2,500 would be for static banner ads to run digitally for 70 days, which would generate about 125,000 impressions. This means, she said, that a person is likely to see the ad roughly once a day.
The extra $3,500 would ensure that the static ads receive 200,000 impression, meaning that a person could see it about twice a day, Kummer said. Those ads could appear on a variety of websites including CNN, MSNBC or Fox News, she said.
TBWBH staff would also work with city employees to create a 15-second video advertising that could be shown on Hulu, YouTube or similar platforms, Kummer said. She recommended 15-second video advertising versus 30 seconds because people are more apt to sit through the entire video.
The extra expense could equate to about 125,000 video impressions, she said.
“The digital provider, this particular one I’m suggesting we use, we’re picking them because of the way they target. They perform much better in smaller communities,” Kummer said. “The reason they do is they purchase a voter file of all registered voters within Crescent City — because we are communicating with all registered voters, we’re not going to exclude anyone — everybody in that segment will receive our advertising and given information about the city’s measure.”
Kummer introduced Councilors to the concept of geofencing, using global positioning or radio frequency to define a geographic boundary and using that information to send a message to the specified area. The provider of the digital campaign will make sure the information reaches eligible voters.
“The other advantage to this is if their ballot is going somewhere else we’ll still be able to target and get them the information where ever they are,” Kummer told Councilors.
After a comment from county resident Linda Sutter, who listed off the each Councilor's compensation in 2018, Councilor Alex Fallman said the city had been transparent about why increasing its sales tax is needed.
“I didn’t know I was supposed to be making money in City Council and public office,” Fallman said. “I want to press that this isn’t the City Council making a decision for the people of the city. The city voters have to make a decision.”
City Councilors also heard from Wier’s father, Rich Wier, who has been a volunteer firefighter with the Crescent Fire Protection District for 42 years.
“We’ve seen call volume start at about 200 major fire calls a year up to running over 2,000 fire calls maintained by a volunteer fire department,” he said, adding that the idea of incorporating a minimal amount of paid staff — three fire captains to oversee a crew of volunteers — dates back to former Crescent City Fire Chief Steve Wakefield who died in 2019. “We cannot go to a paid fire department. I would hate what our results would be if this measure would not pass.”
In addition to the sales tax measures, residents within the Crescent Fire Protection District will be asked to vote on a property tax assessment via a ballot sent in the mail in September or October.
According to a 10 year master plan adopted by both the fire protection district’s Board of Directors and the City Council in November 2019, the hybrid fire department would cost a total of $662,714 to implement. Crescent City would contribute $307,000 and the Crescent Fire Protection District would contribute $465,640.