Salinas residents give their two cents about how to spend $10 million from sales tax.

Check, Please: Taxing Situation: A dismal turnout didn’t dampen enthusiasm for positive change. Jane Morba

It should have been standing room only in the theater at Everett Alvarez High School in Salinas on Feb. 6. It wasn’t even close.

The Monday night meeting was designed to hear residents’ input about how money raised by Measure V will be spent. The half-cent sales tax increase was approved in November by nearly 62 percent of Salinas voters. The meeting was the first in a series of six that will be held, citywide, for the rest of the month, one meeting in each district.

On Feb. 6, it was District 6, Salinas City Councilwoman Jyl Lutes’ representative territory in the city’s northwest. It’s a huge district encompassing some of Salinas’ most rapidly growing areas.

Despite the small crowd of two dozen or so residents, committee members, city employees and city leaders, Lutes was undeterred.

 “This is a new chapter for Salinas,” she said, “a chance to restore services.”

She was talking about libraries, recreation centers, youth and adult sports, graffiti abatement, street maintenance, police, fire, and a host of other services that cost about $15 million annually and that most cities get to take for granted.

Measure V funds, to be collected beginning April 1, are projected to bring the city $10 million annually over the next 10 years. The first of any dollars raised will make it into Salinas coffers by July 1.

“It will not be sufficient to cover all that was cut,” Salinas’ Finance Director Tom Kever said.

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To some, like Salinas resident Robin Lee, it’s not all about restoration anyway. She wants to see new outreach for kids and families. She’s hoping for after-school programs. And then there are the basics: “My streets suck,” she said of potholes in her North Salinas neighborhood. “The sidewalks are undulating to no end.”

Others talked about the need for code enforcement officers and staff members to implement new programs. Most talked about services for children. One of them was Creekside Elementary School Principal Bill Deeb, who complained about having to hold up his own “Stop” sign at school crosswalks.

Still, the theme of the night was libraries, which suffered the biggest financial hit when the City yanked nearly $3.5 million from the library budget last year. Residents donated money to keep the libraries open. And now they’re making no bones about what’s next in their minds.

“I just want the libraries open,” said resident Manuel Rivera. “I wouldn’t actually recommend it. It would be more like a demand.”

UPCOMING MEASURE V MEETINGS INCLUDE: DISTRICT 2, 7PM, THURSDAY, FEB. 9, ALISAL HIGH SCHOOL LITTLE THEATRE, 777 WILLIAMS RD. AND DISTRICT 5, 7PM, WEDNESDAY, FEB. 15, LAUREL WOOD SCHOOL, 645 LARKIN ST.

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