Santa Monica Residents to Vote on Upping Sales Tax to 10.25%
Shopping in Santa Monica | Photo by Malingering via LAist Featured Photos on Flickr
Voters in Santa Monica will be faced with helping save the city's -- and possibly the school district's -- budget when they hit the voting booths in November. A measure approved by the Santa Moncia City Council on Tuesday night will ask voters two questions: to increase the sales tax by a half-penny, making it 10.25%, and if yes, should half of it go towards local schools?
The increase in sales tax, which is expected to raise about $12 million a year, needs support from a simple majority. A second question about half the money going towards schools is considered advisory.
"City officials said the advisory measure will only gauge the community's interest, allowing them to voice their spending priorities, and is not binding," explained the Santa Monica Daily Press. "If the sales tax measure set aside money specifically for schools or any other cause, that would trigger the two-thirds threshold for passage."
The council voted unanimously on the issues, but Mayor Bobby Shriver had reservations. “Tying the two groups together for this election risked creating possible confusion of the schools’ very significant financial circumstances with the City’s significant, but manageable, financial circumstances," he said, according to the LookOut News. He said Santa Monica was not broke and that the city is "rich" when compared to surrounding cities that have also been hit with budget woes, prompting them to layoff employees. "When people vote they should have a clear view … . The schools are in a very different situation than the city. … I hope that the campaigns for this are straight forward about that."
Heal the Bay's Mark Bold sided with Shriver. “I really think this is not a very good idea at this time to go forward with a flat tax in this manner," he said. "I have yet to see with all the things going on within the City of Santa Monica the urgent need for the City itself for this fee. I agree that there is a huge need for the school district.”
Councilmember Gleam Davis was concerned with lowering the city's high quality of service. "We can't cost cut our way out of this problem," she said. "We certainly need to do some cost cutting, but the fact is you can only cut so much until you get to an unexceptable level of services."
The Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce has yet to take a position on the tax, but city leaders cited research that show slight increases in sales tax do not effect spending habits. Vehicle purchases will only be taxed if the buyer is registering it in Santa Monica. Large appliances and construction materials would only fall under the tax if they are delivered within city limits.
The council may next put a measure on the ballot that could lead to extra protections for renters.