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Our Community Focus

Sales Tax Ballot Measure

Jul 31, 2016 08:13PM ● By Jennifer Neys

Sales Tax Ballot Measure on November Ballot

On November 8, Martinez voters will likely get the chance to decide whether or not to increase Martinez’s sales tax by a 1/2 cent to finance street and roadway repairs. The vote would require two-thirds approval to pass.

The City of Martinez street system is at a Pavement Condition Index (PCI) of 51. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission report places Martinez within the bottom of the “At Risk” category. Revenue for street repairs is primarily raised through the steadily declining gasoline taxes.

At the July 6 city council meeting, council deliberated on whether to place a sales tax ballot measure on the November ballot. The city’s current sales and use tax rate is 8.5%. The special tax proposed in the ordinance would be a one-quarter percent to a one percent (0.25% to 1.0%) to begin on April 1, 2017 on retail sales in Martinez. The 0.25% tax could raise about $1 million each year for road repairs and paving. The 0.50% option could raise more than $2.1 million and a 1% sales tax could bring in about $4.2 million each year. A supermajority of the council (4 out of 5 members) must approve.

Mayor Schroder has been very vocal about the need to pave local roads and fix the pot holes and stated in his April Community Focus Mayor’s Message that, “I believe it is time to get serious about bringing the streets and roads to an acceptable condition”.

Councilmember Ross agreed that a sales tax committed to the roads should come sooner rather than later. “I don’t think we need to do a lot of polling. We need to come up with how the money will be spent and what threshold we would be seeking and I think the need is now. It’s not a fiscal emergency, but it’s a physical emergency”.

Vice Mayor AnaMarie Avila Farias expressed concern over the Martinez School Board’s November bond measure competing with the city’s sales tax ballot measure as well as the insufficient amount of time to educate Martinez voters on the ballot measure.

The discussion to consider a resolution was continued to the July 20 meeting where Councilmember DeLaney expressed, “We’re on the verge of failing roads here in Martinez. Our residents are smart enough to see the condition and see that something needs to be done and they’ll back us on this. I have faith in the Martinez voters that they can assess what this will mean to them, a 0.25% would only generate a million dollars a year, but that’s a million dollars we don’t have enough of now, so I’m willing to go forward; we have to show leadership.”  However Mayor Schroder and Councilmember Mark Ross supported a higher 0.50% tax rate.

After further debate, the motion was made and voted unanimously to place a sales tax ballot measure on the November ballot to increase the Martinez sales tax by 0.50% for street and road maintenance. In addition the measure will have a time limit, or “sunset date” of 15 years. The draft ballot measure also provides that a Citizen Oversight Committee will be established in the event the measure passes with the required two-thirds vote. An ad hoc subcommittee (formed by Mayor Schroder and Councilmember DeLaney) will write a ballot argument to be reviewed by the entire city council at a future meeting. Council will schedule a second public hearing to approve the ordinance and adopt the resolution calling the election for November 8. This will happen in advance of the August 12 deadline.