Sales tax measure headed for ballot

With board approval, the sales tax increase and its accompanying advisory measure will go to Lassen County voters on the June 5 Primary Election ballot.

“Let the voters decide,” said supervisor Aaron Albaugh as he gave the final aye vote.

During its Tuesday, Feb. 20 meeting, the Lassen County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to adopt the Supplemental

Transaction and Use Tax Ordinance and called and to place the tax and advisory measure on the upcoming ballot.

The tax measure will impose a .75 cent sales tax increase to the voters, potentially generating a $2.1 million increase to the general revenue. Lassen County currently has a 7.25 percent sales tax rate and with the increase the sales tax rate would be 8 percent. Currently when the tax is collected, 6 cents from every 7.25 cents collected goes to the state, 1 cent goes to local jurisdictions and .25 cents goes to the local transportation fund.

The accompanying advisory measure, which is non-binding, will allow voters to show the county where they would like the revenue to be spent. It asks voters if they want 75 percent of the incoming tax funds to go toward public safety.

The measure will need a simple majority of voters to pass.

On the calling and consolidating election resolution, the board and meeting attendees had some changes before approval.
Albaugh asked if the phrase “the board desires to place a ballot measure before the voters…” could be changed since the board did not want to raise taxes. The phrasing was changed to “feels compelled.”

Additionally, Lassen County Auditor Diana Wemple had some concerns regarding the advisory measure putting funds toward public safety, since the county already is spending one-time funds to fund public safety.

County Administrative Officer Richard Egan noted the percentage would be based off a three-year average of spending, and the wording in the resolution was changed.

At previous meetings, there was an issue brought forth by numerous speakers who wanted the increase in revenue to go toward specifically public safety. However, the board expressed concern that would have difficulty passing, as a special tax requires 66.67 percent voter approval.

The county and the city are still working out a tax sharing agreement.

However, should the city and county not come to an agreement, the Susanville City Council introduced a tax measure of its own for a .5 cent city retail tax increase as a contingency plan during its Wednesday, Feb. 21 meeting.