City Council reaches impasse on sales tax measure
March 11, 2008 — In a 2-2 vote, the Susanville City Council reached an impasse in placing a proposed 0.5 percent sales tax measure on the June 3 ballot.
According to City Counsel Peter Talia, four of five councilmembers had to vote yes to place a tax measure on a ballot.
Susanville Mayor Lino Callegari and councilmember Kurt Bonham voted against the measure, while councilmembers Rod DeBoer and Vern Templeton voted for it.
The sales tax increase would have generated an estimated annual income of about $856,000, which would have been allocated to the city’s general fund.
City Administrator Rob Hill said that while the additional revenue would have been added to the city’s general coffers, the tax increase would have been accompanied by advisory measures. Hill said the advisory measures would help guide the allocation of the extra revenue.
“The documents you have here reflect that,” Hill said when presenting the measure to the council. “These documents are developed by the staff to best reflect what we generally felt were the priority of the residents and also reflect the financial needs of the city.”
Hill said sales tax measure discussions began in November. Since then, Susanville Mayor Lino Callegari said he and the people of Susanville would most likely not support a tax measure increase, unless they were actually able to see their dollars in action. During the council’s regular meetings, Callegari has repeatedly said he would support a tax measure with the sole purpose of bringing a swimming pool to the community.
The city offered residents to participate in a poll listing the top priorities the council should focus on. A majority of the residents of Susanville said they wanted to see repairs to the roads.
Hill and City Attorney Peter Talia reminded the council that for a tax measure to be dedicated to a specific purpose, 66 percent of the voting population would have to approve it during a special election.
Because of that, Hill said if the council decided not to pass the tax increase, the next opportunity for the measure would be during a 2010 general election. A non-specific tax measure would require a 50-percent-plus-one vote.
Before the council voted on the tax measure, each of the council members gave a brief explanation as to why he was sticking to his respective vote.
“I have a personal problem with any kind of tax increase at this time,” Callegari said. “Because of the way the finances are going across the country right now, I don’t believe this is a good measure to put on the ballot at this time.”
Templeton voiced his support for the measure by reiterating the current financial problems the city is in right now, from the lack of funds to the lack of support staff.
“After reviewing the budget and after seeing the staff we’ve lost, we don’t have money for a lot of these programs,” Templeton said. “One of the things I’ve thought about is if the people of Susanville want these services, like road construction, economic development and a swimming pool, this tax measure can help provide some of those financial means.”
DeBoer echoed Templeton’s views, saying while no time is a good time to raise taxes, items like the loss of law enforcement staff and the lack of a way to keep them here can only create more problems.
Bonham said while there is no doubt the city needs money, the city really has no plan on how to spend the money.
“To tell the public that we need the money but we don’t have any idea how we’re going to spend the money, I don’t think the people are going to bite on it,” Bonham said. “Without a plan on how we are actually going to utilize this money, I cannot support a tax at this time.”
City Clerk Debra Magginetti said the board couldn’t table the item because they had a deadline to vote on the measure reaching a ballot by March 7. The council did pass ordinances, which not only called for a regularly scheduled general election on June 3, but also requested the Lassen County Board of Supervisors to consolidate their election to coincide with the council’s as well.
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