The city of Davis’ June ballot will include Measure Q, which would continue the one-half cent sales tax that has been in effect since 2004.
If passed, this measure would continue the sales tax until Dec. 31, 2016.
“It is critical that the Davis community pass Measure Q,” said Mayor Ruth Asmundson. “The current sales tax override provides approximately $3 million to the city’s General Fund which is then used to help support basic city services, such as fire, police and park maintenance.”
A half-cent sales tax may not seem significant, but according to Asmundson, revenues from this tax make up about 8 percent of Davis’s General Fund.
“I’m going to support Measure Q,” said Kate Williams, a UC Davis alumni and two-year resident of Davis. “I like that it is a small amount, and it is part of the General Fund as opposed to a dedicated purpose, like just schools or just fire. I like the flexibility. Governments need the flexibility to choose where they put their limited resources.”
The resolution to include Measure Q on the ballot passed the City Council with one “no” vote from Councilmember Lamar Heystek.
“I don’t believe the voters should pass measure Q,” Heystek said. “I don’t feel the city has been responsible for addressing the budget issues.
Heystek said the poor economy is not the only reason the city’s budget has been hurting. He believes there are major structural issues with the city budget that should be addressed, such as overly generous and “unsustainable” benefits for city employees.
“If every city employee retired right now, we would owe between 42 and 60 million dollars,” Heystek said. “We can’t sustain a liability of 60 million.”
Heystek also said the city’s benefits plan gives disproportionate benefits to higher paid employees, which takes money away from other areas.
“I’m not aware of misuse of city funds,” Williams said. “We vote them in, and until there’s evidence of mismanagement, I think we should give them the resources they need.”
Local business owner and Davis resident of over 40 years, Peter Linz, also supports Measure Q.
“It’s not something I oppose,” said Linz, who opened the Logos bookstore on Second Street about two months ago. “Nobody likes taxes but we need the money.”
Linz also believes that the half-cent sales tax would not deter shoppers.
“This is what we have right now,” he said. “I don’t think it would hurt business but I think we could hurt public services by getting rid of it.”
In contrast, Dan Urazandi, a 20-year Davis resident and owner of Bizarro World, opposes this measure.
“I personally don’t support any new taxes,” Urazandi said. “From a business perspective, a sales tax hike is always bad. I didn’t sign on to be a tax collector.”
Davis anticipates a $1 million dollar budget deficit for the 2010-11 year and many cuts have already been made to city programs. If Measure Q does not pass, more cuts would likely be inevitable.
“The City Council has not yet determined how it would cut additional $3 million from the General Fund if Measure Q does not pass – whether cuts would be across the board cuts or cuts to more targeted cuts to specific program areas,” Asmundson said.
Despite these potential cuts, Heystek urges voters not to pass Measure Q.
“Taxpayers should take this opportunity to protest the city’s approach to the budget,” Heystek said. “You need to show voters you’ve made a real effort to address these issues before you ask for their support.”
Urazandi echoes this opinion.
“The government is broke because they spent too much money,” he said. “If my son came to me and said he was broke, I would ask him the same question-what happened to the allowance I just gave you?”
Davis voters will ultimately decide on this issue in the election on June 8.
SARAH HANSEL can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.