Jessica Cejnar / Tuesday, July 28 @ 5:58 p.m.
Supervisors Approve Tax Measure Resolution; Proposed 1 Cent Increase Goes to Voters in November
A proposed 1 cent sales tax increase to pay for law enforcement, road repair, first responders and other public safety items will go before Del Norte County voters on Nov. 3.
The Del Norte County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted 4-1 in favor of a resolution containing the ordinance that will take effect should 50 percent plus 1 of the electorate approve it. If it passes, the tax will be applied to sales in the county’s unincorporated areas. District 1 Supervisor Roger Gitlin dissented after he declared in his report to his colleagues that law enforcement is under siege nationwide.
Before he and his colleagues voted, Gitlin argued that a sales tax increase would be burdensome.
“This is no time for our county to support a 1 percent general sales tax (increase) when so many of us are hurting,” he said. “It’s always so sad and disheartening to see the only answer we have to solve any problem is adding another tax.”
According to the resolution, if approved, the sales tax will “support vital local services including: Providing support for law enforcement for emergency response; repairing potholes and maintaining streets; preparing for and responding to natural disasters and health emergencies; maintaining emergency dispatch services for fire, ambulance and law enforcement; maintaining jail and criminal justice services; addressing blight and public nuisances; and other general services and infrastructure.”
The proposed tax increase would generate $1.2 million annually, according to the staff report. A citizens oversight committee will report annually on the revenue the tax generates and how the county is using it. The tax measure will also be subject to an annual audit.
The revenue the 1 cent sales tax increase generates will not be used for salaries and benefits, County Administrative Officer Jay Sarina told supervisors. Sarina said it would also be up to voters to decide when the tax should end.
According to Gitlin, if the tax measure passes, Del Norte’s sales tax would increase to 8.5 percent. He noted, however, that a previous sales tax increase to benefit the Del Norte County Fairgrounds sunsets in 2022.
Gitlin’s colleagues, supervisors Chris Howard and Bob Berkowitz referenced a resolution to support law enforcement unanimously approved at the board’s July 14 meeting.
Howard argued that the tax measure is an important tool to provide critical services. He told Gitlin that for the county to pursue financial assistance through the State of California, it often has to “take action first.”
“I’m fiscally conservative when it comes to this stuff, but you know full well the hit our general fund is taking,” Howard told Gitlin. “I don’t want to go back and ask our electorate for this, but we have no choice if we’re going to survive.”
Berkowitz said approving the resolution that would place the tax measure on the ballot shows the community that the Board of Supervisors really does support law enforcement.
“We’re not going to dictate what you think and how you should vote, we’re going to leave it up to you, the public, and you can tell us what you believe and how important first responders are to you and this community,” he said. “That’s what this is all about.”
The Crescent City Council on Aug. 3 will vote on a similar ordinance placing a 1 percent sales tax measure for public safety on the November ballot. If the measure passes, the tax increase would apply to sales within Crescent City limits.
In other matters, Sarina gave supervisors an update on proposals put forth by the Republican and Democratic parties to amend the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Securities Act. Del Norte County’s lobbyist is pushing for additional money to offset revenue lost due to a decrease in transient occupancy taxes.
According to Del Norte County Treasurer-Tax Collector Barbara Lopez, the county could see a loss of about $110,000 in TOT revenue. Those dollars go into the county’s general fund, she said.
Sarina said the county’s budget team is continuing to work on a balanced budget to present to supervisors in September.