On June 3, the City of Davis will be holding its General Municipal and Special Elections. Registered voters will be electing two seats for Davis City Council along with voting on two measures — Measure O and Measure P.
Approving Measure O would mean re-authorizing and extending the current transactions and use tax — sales tax— as well as increasing the current sales tax by one percent. Approving this would extend the existing sales tax sunset from Dec. 31, 2016 to Dec. 31, 2020.
As the current sales tax, the increased sales tax would be a general tax so all revenue would pool into the City’s general fund and could be used for any legal governmental purpose.
With the current rates, the city’s total sales tax rate — including both state and local sales taxes– is eight percent. This measure would increase that number to 8.5 percent. If not approved, the original 2016 sunset clause would bring down the sales tax to 7.5 percent.
For Measure O
Several individuals have expressed support for this measure, believing that it’s necessary to uphold the quality of life in Davis. They believe that the half-cent increase would provide the necessary revenue to continue with road repairs, bike path repairs and parks maintenance, among other things.
“I’m supportive of Measure O. Davis is a nice place to live. It has a lot of amenities and nice features and in order to maintain those, I think paying an extra half-percent sales tax is reasonable,” said Brett Lee, current City Council member.
Lee adds that Sacramento already has a sales tax of 8.5 percent.
The sales tax, supporters say, will also help in reducing the existing $5.1 million structural budget deficit. It would bring in $3.6 million in revenue per year.
Supporters believe that some basic services in Davis — such as police, fire and parks departments — could be slightly compromised if the measure were not to pass.
“Realistically, half a percent won’t make a large enough impact on my life. I’d probably vote for that also because the investment of half a percent has a bigger benefit in returns rather than not doing anything,” said Gabriel Ferreira, a second-year chemical engineering major.
Against Measure O
Several community members see problems with this measure, one of their greatest grievances being that they feel the City of Davis has failed to explain how the sales tax would aid in offsetting the $5.1 million deficit in enough detail.
“The cost of [the] living situation here in Davis has become extraordinary high due to many factors such as an inordinate number of voter approved special parcel taxes in recent years,” said Thomas Randall Jr., a member of the No Parcel Taxes Political Action Committee (PAC) in an email.
Additionally, those against Measure O believe that this would be just the start of several new propositions to increase sales tax and institute parcel taxes.
“I will oppose any upcoming proposals for new taxes or increases such as the special parcel tax assessment being considered as a ballot measure in the upcoming November general election as well in the City of Davis,” Randall said.
Stav Grossfeld, a fourth-year genetics major, believes taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay extra taxes because of the City’s deficit, believing Davis should be able to generate revenue in other ways.
“I don’t think it’ll affect student life. College is already so expensive, I wouldn’t want other students to pay more. It does amount to some money — maybe in a year there would be extra money but it wouldn’t make a huge difference,” Grossfeld said.
Individuals who don’t support Measure O also note that this sales tax would be the highest in all of Yolo County.
Lee said he believes non-supporters have a different vision.
“When you look at communities close by, Davis stands out as one of the nicest places to live. It’s a safe and bike friendly community, citizen friendly. Some of these things cost some more money, so for a slightly higher tax in turn we have slightly higher expectation. I think that’s a fair trade,” Lee said.
If passed, Measure P would repeal Ordinance No. 2405 (2405), an ordinance passed in 2013 that authorizes increase in the water rates for the coming five years to fund future water system maintenance, operations and improvements, including the Woodland-Davis Surface Water Project.
The repeal would return water rates back to pre-May 2013 rates. The previous rate was a fixed rate based on meter size and variable water use charge.
There would be no refunds of the 2405 rates already paid if Measure P were to pass. Regardless of the Measure P vote, the City may change water rates.
Those who put Measure P on the ballot also filed a lawsuit against the City of Davis in January 2013 alleging that the City’s water and wastewater rates were in violation of Proposition 218, which states that a ratepayer cannot be charged more than the cost of supplying water to their property.
On Jan. 22, the city’s current and future rates were found fair and legal.
Supportive of Measure P
Those in support of Measure P believe that the main problem with the consumption-based, fixed rate (CBFR) is unfair to Davis’ single family homes who would be paying more for a gallon of water than other residents, the biggest issue being irrigation over the summer.
They assert that the average homeowner will be paying 40 percent more than apartment landlords for each gallon of water by 2018. Additionally, they believe the rates should be dependent on yearly use.
Randall said he believes the cost of living here is too unnecessarily high.
“The threat of rising utility (water) rates and further caused by highly restrictive development (growth control) policies has the potential to become further problematic to the cost of living situation especially for the low to middle income residents in Davis,” Randall said.
Against Measure P
Those against Measure P see this measure as a delay tactic against the water surface project. The new rates, which were judged as constitutional by the Yolo County Supreme Court, were based on the idea that everyone should pay a fair portion that is dependent on how much water they use and the systems with which they acquire it.
They add that, in Davis, approximately two-thirds of residential ratepayers would pay less with the new rate structure.
Lee says City Council will be redoing the water rates whether Measure P passes or not. He adds that those in support of this measure are attempting to stop the water project.
“They want to stop the water project and this is a way to help them. I’m supportive of the water project and it’s important we do the rates. Additionally we’ll do that whether [Measure] P passes or doesn’t pass,” Lee said.
GABRIELLA HAMLETT can be reached at email@example.com.