R is for Revenue
Seaside’s Measure R would fatten police and fire budgets.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
The city of Seaside is asking voters to approve a ballot measure that would raise the local sales tax 1 percent, to 8.25 percent. If passed on Feb. 5, Measure R (dubbed the Vital City Services Measure) would generate more than $3 million per year, says Deputy City Manager Daphne Hodgson.
Most of the new revenue would be used for public safety; less than one fifth would bolster recreation and maintenance services, according to a staff report.
As Fort Ord development triples the city’s size, Seaside’s fire and police chiefs propose dramatic increases in funding. The Fire Department wants 12 new employees, a second station and equipment at an estimated cost of $2.8 million over three years. The Police Department proposes 13 new sworn officers and supervisors, plus equipment, at about $2.85 million through 2010.
Over the same timeframe, roughly $1.2 million would boost recreation, senior and resource management services including parks, street improvements, building and vehicle maintenance, planning and engineering, meals for seniors, pre-school and after-school programs and sports.
Seaside Taxpayers Association President Eugene Lee says the sales tax hike could drive business out of Seaside and into Marina and Sand City, where sales taxes are 7.25 and 7.75 percent, respectively. Property tax would more appropriately cover the increased fire service needs on Fort Ord, he says.
If Measure R passes and voters countywide approve the Transportation Agency of Monterey County’s half-cent sales tax increase in November, Seaside’s sales tax would soar to 8.75 percent. “If you are a low-income person, most of your money goes out for goods and services, so you end up paying a lot more money on [sales] tax,” Lee says. “It’s not fair to the little guy.”
City leaders, including Mayor Ralph Rubio, Police Officers’ Association President Steven Wright and Seaside Firefighters’ Association President Jason Sullens, support the sales tax increase. In a written statement, they claim the deteriorating quality of local services has led to increased traffic congestion, drug abuse, gang activity and violent crime.
“Measure R’s opponents have made a career out of saying ‘no,’ being naysayers,” they write.