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West Sacramento News-Ledger

Voters to Decide 1-Cent Transaction and Use Tax

May 14, 2024 04:11PM ● By Angela Underwood, photos by Angela Underwood

City Manager Aaron Laurel explains to West Sacramento mayor and council members the need for a proposed tax.

WEST SACRAMENTO, CA (MPG) - A proposed one-cent transaction and use tax could provide the city with nearly $20 million.

During the May 1 City Council meeting, West Sacramento City Manager Aaron Laurel and Government Affairs manager Doug Drozd presented Mayor Martha Guerrero and the City Council members with a tax proposal for the November ballot that would fund community safety, infrastructure improvements, road upgrades and park maintenance. 

ballot language November

 West Sacramento's proposed ballot language for possible sales tax add on is to be considered by voters in November.

While the proposal is "part of current strategic plan priorities," Laurel said, it goes much further back than that.

"This council and the previous council have been struggling with the challenge of keeping the General Fund sustainable and addressing operation gaps," Laurel said. 

West Sacramento city services community safety

 General Fund gaps needed to improve West Sacramento city services include community safety and infrastructure improvements.

Those gaps include staffing, service levels, competitive employee compensation, facilities, equipment, vehicle maintenance, and infrastructure and road improvements. Calling West Sacramento "a fairly new city," Laurel said that since 1987, there have been 30,000 more residents, 1,000 new businesses, 10,000 new daily workers and computer trips.

West Sacramento incorporation

 West Sacramento has grown since incorporation in 1987.

The new tax addresses gaps in current and future service levels and better matches these expectations with reality, according to Laurel, who said it stabilizes further budgets and sustains investment and growth.

"The city still has a lot of growth to manage," Laurel said, adding that while it is positive economic development growth, it comes with a cost,” Laurel said. "We can't maintain a really aggressive and ambitious capital improvement program while you have challenges in the General Fund."

General Fund sources include property tax, sales tax, service charges, transient occupancy tax and other sources.

However, the most significant part of the General Fund from property and sales tax is automatically used for public safety, including fire and police, which suffer recruitment and retention challenges.

Drozd explained a transaction use tax, which is "a sales tax add-on cities can put before voters to go above the statewide base rate of seven and a quarter percent."

"They are similar to sales use tax; however, sales use tax generally stays at the point of transaction, whereas a transaction use tax follows the merchandise," Drozd said, providing an example of purchasing an out-of-town vehicle. "That jurisdiction will get the sales use tax, but when you come back and register it, that is where the transaction use tax goes." 

If passed, it will be a 2% maximum combined tax, with increments of 0.125 percent. However, officials can only explain why they need the money in 75 words on the ballot. 

Drozd presented the council with the possible verbiage voters will see on the ballot, which reads the tax will help "rebuild roads and repair potholes, increase police and fire protection, recruit and retain safety personnel, maintain parks and trails, address homelessness, and keep public spaces safe and clean."

No matter what the language, Councilmember Dawnte Early made it clear that officials “must be straight” with residents, "particularly because of transparency and public trust that what you vote on and what you say you are going to use those dollars for that is what the council will use those dollars for."

Councilmember Dawnte Early November

 Councilmember Dawnte Early explains the importance of remaining transparent with the public over a proposed tax measure to be placed on the November ballot.

There is no question that West Sacramento roads need improvement, according to Councilmember Verna Sulpizio Hull, who brought up present potholes causing daily issues, making it necessary for the "council to step up their game."

With new trails and parks, Sulpizio Hull said, the city must maintain the city amenities, along with homelessness and housing concerns.

"As a council member, this is my first conversation about a sales tax measure and I want to note that I don't take raising taxes lightly at all. However, through having this conversation, I am very clear that the minimal impact it will have on residents with the incremental amount of it," Hull said.

Councilmember Verna Sulpizio Hull West Sacramento

 Councilmember Verna Sulpizio Hull shared her concerns with road danger regarding maintenance and the need to improve West Sacramento streets.

Early and Councilmember Quirina Orozco made it clear that community safety is at hand. 

"We need more police officers, and we need to be competitive in regard to our surrounding cities and how we can recruit," Early said. 

Orozco said, "core service needs that should have been funded three years ago" must be taken care of, especially for the police.

"We should have a facility that represents how we truly feel about our law enforcement officers and how they are working, and that includes fire," Orozco said.

Orozco said that the “council is not the final decider; the public is,” and she “understands the financial pressure on the voters” with the measure presented during high healthcare, gas and food inflation.

"The crunch is real, and the impact in my household is real, and I can only imagine what it is like for other households here," Orozco said.

Mayor Guerrero said she would like the public to know as much as possible about the proposed measure.

Laurel suggested creating a website that answers any questions the public might have.

Agreeing with her peers, Councilmember Norma Alcala said that while the public's ultimate question is to answer, the council's job "tonight is to get the ball rolling."

The nearly hour-and-a-half workshop ended with Hull noting if officials do not do what they said on the proposed ballot measure, they should not be reelected.

The council had a second reading on the measure on May 15 for the proposal to move forward.

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