I’m seeing a lot of boosterism for raising the sales-tax rates in Grass Valley and Nevada City, with campaign signs, “fact sheets” and appeals to “essential” City Services.
A lot of it comes from the “old guard” in both towns, not the “change agents.” Watch out, too, because you might get labeled a traitor if you dare to question any of this. It’s a small town.
The same “electeds” and city leaders who preach “fiscal conservatism” often are retired public servants, some of whom are “double dippers” when it comes to pensions and benefits.
And here’s the biggest irony of all: The anti-government drumbeat that a lot of people in our county think is so cool (at least when it comes to bashing President Obama) is making it harder to win support for even sensible spending plans.
The failed fire tax initiative in south county (Measure B) was just one example. It failed to reach the 2/3 majority threshold for a special tax.
So instead, we turn to initiatives such as Measure N and Measure L that send $$$ to the general funds with only a majority vote — but that is loaded with risk (see below).
I also haven’t read a word of analysis in the local media, including The Union, about the sales tax measures. In fact some residents don’t know what Measure N (Grass Valley) and Measure L (Nevada City) stands for.
Some of the most cogent analysis has appeared on Sierra Foothills Report:
Below is 12 year history(and projected for current year) of GV’s General Fund(GF), and the two biggest contributors to the GF, property tax(Average 20% of GF), and sales tax(average 45% of GF). GV hit a peak sales tax revenue in the boom years of 2006/7, and sales tax begin to decline in the following years, and hit a 12 year low in FY 2009/10. If measure N passes, GV’s sales tax revenue will grow by 50%(currently the city portion is 1%, and Meas N will add .5%, new total would 1.5%) The City will see an instant increase of over 2 million dollars. The GF will grow in one year to a 12 year high. The decrease in sales tax from 2006/7(peak) to current year is about 1 million. Measure N will DOUBLE that decrease in 1 year. I can not support Meas N because it is too general(by design!), and if a few Council people can not stay within a small budget for travel, why should the citizens trust them with millions! The better alternative is a specific/special tax(I know it takes 2/3 vote,etc). Note to Michael A. – yes, I think the Police Dept needs more money, as you pointed out the PD is 43% of the GF, and they have taken a huge hit since 2006/7. I support more $$$ for police and fire, but it needs to be raised via a special tax.
Interesting points. Regarding the Nevada City sales tax increase, unfortunately, it will be going into the black hole known as the General Fund (if passed) with no accountability. However, according to the city’s allocation spreadsheet presented a few months ago 37 – 40% of the increase over 5 years will be going to raises for top management positions. I would speculate that 90% of the citizens are unaware of this. While the election documents prepared probably meet the minimum legal standards the city is deceiving the voters by not mentioning this fact.
Also, I see the Nevada City political “machine” is at it again putting up fancy “Yes on Measure L” signs around town. I wonder who paid for those?
The “other side” might not like to read comments like this (and The Union has always been a champion of the “old guard,” often filtering the message).
But it’s true:
1. Both measures send money to the general fund, where accountability is limited. In the past, both cities have passed special tax measures that were targeted toward good causes (fire and street repair, for example), even with a 2/3 voting requirement. These tax increases, by design, only require a majority vote to win.
2. The sales tax increases will increase the gap between our county and Placer County, which already is sucking business out of the area with big-box stores and — at least a lot of people think so — lower prices.
A “Yes on Measure N” brochure points out that the sales tax on purchases in Grass Valley will increase to 7.875 percent — the rate in effect in Truckee and Nevada City.
And Nevada City’s sales tax will go even higher now with this proposed increase!
Here’s the kicker: The sales tax rate is in Auburn, where Home Depot and Target are located, is only 7.25 percent.
What about Roseville, where Costco is located? Also just 7.25 percent.
Do you hear a sucking sound? Losing even more business “off the hill” because we voted to increase our sales tax rates would not be a prudent economic development strategy. We’d be shooting ourselves in the foot.
To be sure, most people support spending money on police and fire staffing and street repair. I do.
But we ought to dig deeper and think harder about whether to support Measure N or Measure L, or ask the City Councils to go back to the drawing board and come up with a better plan.
We need City Council members who are “watchdogs,” not “lapdogs,” and we don’t need fear tactics.
It’s unpopular (even frowned upon) to raise questions around here — until the other shoe drops as it did with the 2008 “Asleep at the Wheel” grand jury report about Nevada City, or the unfortunate failure of Citizens Bank (which became too dependent on Grass Valley real-estate loans).
NO PUBLIC DEBATE!
The measure N supporters are holding a “townhall” meeting at the Contractors Association offices on October 11.
This is not a debate, however. It will discuss the “merits” of the program — in short a political rally. You can bet that The Union will be there to write a one-sided story.
The League of Women Voters will hold a meeting on the pros and cons of “the 11 ballot” measures on October 13. But I saw no mention of Measure L or Measure N, just the statewide ballot initiatives.
So the changes are growing that voters won’t have enough good information about the ballot measures when they cast their vote on November 6.
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