City council hosts sales tax public hearing

There will be a public hearing tomorrow evening, at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 2, at the Susanville city chambers, 66 N. Lassen St. The subject of the special meeting is to solidifying the language of the city’s proposed 1 percent special use sales tax increase, to be used solely for public safety, onto the March 3 ballot.

Susanville City Attorney Jessica Ryan announced the public hearing at the council’s regular Sept. 18 meeting, and said, “The … tax was pulled from the last agenda because, in doing some last minute reviews, we realized there was a conflict between the ordinance in section 3.16.090 of our municipal code, and we needed time to figure that out. So in the meantime, we’re still moving forward. There are a number of things that we have to do,” and she emphasized that “just because that item was pulled, doesn’t mean it’s not moving forward.”

If anyone in the public is interested in speaking about the item, they are welcome to attend the public hearing at its Oct. 2 regular meeting.

Mike Wilson, city administrator for the city of Susanville, told the council staff was working with Margaret Long because of her expertise on the subject of working with cities on tax measures.

“As we’re going through this, we’re double-checking our own processes with Margeret to make sure we’re all involved,” said Wilson. “Creating that communication and giving an opportunity for Jess to gain some expertise in this as well.”

At the Aug. 21 meeting, the council instructed staff to prepare the proper paperwork to place the tax measure on the March 3 ballot, which will need a supermajority of two-thirds to pass. And on Sept. 4, the first reading of the ordinance for the proposed tax measure was pulled due to the prior mentioned conflicts.

In the Sept. 18 agenda’s summary, it states that the city of Susanville faces imminent budget shortfalls in all areas including public safety. Various community members stated that they would have supported Measure J on the June 2019 ballot if it had been a special tax in which the revenue generated from the increased sales taxes would solely fund public safety.

Although there is no certainty in knowing how much revenue the 1 percent increase in sales tax will generate, the city’s staff project $1.8 million in revenue.

There was also the question to staff from the council to provide guidelines when it comes to what city officials can and cannot say or do regarding the tax measure. Ryan provided the following guidelines:

Fair, objective information is acceptable. Advocacy is not.

The public’s time, money and other resources may not be used to promote or oppose ballot measures.

A city council may still officially endorse or oppose a ballot measure.

City officials should not take part in ballot measure campaigns while on “city time.”

Cities may still analyze the effect of ballot measures on cities and publicize this information. The fair and impartial analysis may then be made available to the newspapers, advocacy groups and others who may make use of the information if they choose.

City officials may still respond to telephone calls, letters, and e-mails about a ballot measure while on city time. Their response is limited to (1) stating that the city has either endorsed or opposed the measure and (2) presenting fair and impartial information about the measure.

An official may not use public resources to take sides on the measure. Public resources may not be used for campaign materials that expressly advocate a position on a ballot measure.

City may not link from the city’s website to a ballot campaign website.

A public employee may still make a presentation on a public agency’s position on a ballot measure at local organizations, such as the Chamber of Commerce, as long as the employee presents fair and impartial information on the ballot measure.

Making written materials available on city premises, including libraries and community centers, in a manner that expressly advocates a position on a ballot measure or candidate is prohibited.

Use of city staff to write campaign speeches for ballot measures or candidates is prohibited.

Using city telephones, computers, copiers or fax machines for communications that expressly advocate a position on a ballot measure or candidate is prohibited.

Use of city mail routing to distribute materials that expressly advocate a position on a ballot measure or candidate even though the materials are prepared outside of the city is prohibited.

Preparing or sending out press releases in a manner that expressly advocates a position on a ballot measure or candidate is prohibited.

Use of city stationary in a manner that expressly advocates a position on a ballot measure or candidate is prohibited.

Using public funds to produce bumper stickers, billboards, posters, television and radio advertisements and other campaign material, regardless of whether such media expressly advocate a position is prohibited.