Local Taxes

Local Tax Measures on the Recall Election Ballot in Three Counties

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When they cast their ballots in the September 14 gubernatorial recall election, voters in three counties also will decide the fate of two local tax measures.

Measure T, a parcel tax to fund a fire district that serves Nevada and Placer counties, proposes an annual tax of $179 per parcel. The tax, which requires a two-thirds vote for passage, would provide $3.7 million annually to the Truckee Fire Protection District to fund wildfire protection services. The tax would sunset in eight years.

The special election for Measure T originally was scheduled as an all-mail election that would conclude August 31, but was consolidated with the recall election once the date of the recall was decided.

The Truckee Fire Protection District has produced several campaign-style “informational mailers” that describe the tax as the “Wildfire Protection Measure” and encourage voters to support the Measure T without directly including a “vote yes” message.

In the city of Lompoc (Santa Barbara County), voters will decide the fate of Measure Q, which would increase a cannabis tax passed in 2018. The tax on cannabis manufacturing and distribution – currently an annual flat tax of $15,000 if net income is less than $2 million, or $30,000 if net income is greater – would be replaced with varying rates on manufacturing and distribution operations, starting at 0.5 cents per dollar for $10 million or less in total revenue, up to 2.5 cents per dollar for $55 million or more in total revenue.

Measure Q, which requires a majority vote for approval, would cost taxpayers an estimated $1.2 million per year, with the revenue going to the city’s general fund.

Lompoc used city funds to produce a Measure Q video featuring Mayor Jenelle Osborne in which she describes the tax as a “fee.”

“This ballot measure is for you, the Lompoc voters,” Osborne says in the video. “It would only change the current cannabis tax structure for cannabis manufacturing and distribution businesses. Lompoc currently charges all manufacturers and distributors a flat fee. If Measure Q passes, Lompoc would charge an income-based percentage that will not exceed 2.5 percent. This is one of the lowest fees in our region.”

The video includes text that largely mirrors Osborne’s voiceover, but when Osborne describes the “income-based percentage,” the text more accurately states that it would be an “income-based tax.”

The original cannabis tax, Measure D of 2018, passed with 75.69 percent of the vote and was estimated to generate $130,000 to $470,000 per year in revenue.

In other local tax news:

Sacramento Considering Storm Water Fee Increase. The Sacramento City Council is considering a ballot measure that would increase the storm water system fee paid by property owners.

The Sacramento Bee reported that the proposal would increase the fee for most single-family homeowners from approximately $135 to $205 per year, based on the size of impervious surfaces. The increase would cost property owners approximately $20 million per year, according to city estimates.

The revenue would be used to repair, maintain, and improve the city’s storm water system, city officials said.

The city used tax dollars to create a webpage that promotes the water rate increase, but does not mention any negative affects that the additional costs would have on Sacramento residents.

“To continue protecting clean, local water, the City of Sacramento is considering a potential ballot measure to fund repairs, maintenance and improvements to its aging stormwater system, which protects homes, businesses, local rivers and water sources,” the webpage states..

The city paid $48,250 to poll residential property owners about the increase, and reported that 54 percent of those polled expressed support (32 percent said definitely yes, 17 percent said probably yes, and 6 percent were undecided, but leaning yes).

“Political consultant Steven Maviglio received one of those calls, and found the questions to be one-sided,” The Bee reported. “’It was a definite lopsided poll designed to get the results they wanted to hear,’ Maviglio said. ‘Clearly they have a political agenda … and they’re using tax dollars to do it.’ … ‘In a unbiased independent poll, the appetite for a tax increase right now is nonexistent,’ Maviglio said. ‘Even in a progressive city, enough is enough.’”

The City Council could consider the proposal January, and ballots could be mailed to property owners within a matter of weeks after the council’s approval, city officials said. “The question would not be included on the ballot for the June 2022 local election,” The Bee reported. (Source: The Sacramento Bee, September 2.)