The numbers are sobering: Over the next five years, the city of Seaside has identified $194 million in capital improvement needs – fixing roads, replacing storm drains, etc. – but the city’s general fund revenues are only about $27-29 million annually.
Adding to that problem is the fact that federal and state grants to the city totaling about $900,000, helping fund fire protection and youth violence prevention programs, expire in the next fiscal year.
To help alleviate the shortfall, Seaside City Council voted unanimously March 3 to declare a “fiscal emergency,” which will allow the city to put two measures on the ballot – both of which were also approved unanimously – in a special election in June. They would require a majority vote to pass.
One of the measures is an ongoing 10-percent tax on cannabis-related businesses, which would provide an estimated $200,000-$400,000 annually to the city; such businesses are currently prohibited in Seaside, but pending council approval, the city will be updating its zoning ordinances this year to allow them.
The other measure is a 0.5-cent increase in sales tax that would increase city revenues by an estimated $1.9 million annually.
A February poll paid for by the city shows broad support for both measures. Out of the 289 Seaside voters that were polled, 76 percent said they were likely to support the marijuana business tax and 71 percent would likely support the sales tax bump.
That same poll showed the condition of local roads is the most urgent problem in Seaside, with 74 percent of voters calling it either an “extremely serious” or “very serious” problem.
“The city has a collection of fiscal challenges, and diversifying revenue will help,” City Manager Craig Malin says.
Seaside, which is the Monterey Peninsula’s most populous city at about 35,000 residents, also has its lowest revenue per capita, with about $840 of revenue per resident.
Malin estimates the special election will cost the city about $75,000.