The City Council will discuss and decide whether to place a measure before Concord voters that will extend the existing half-cent sales tax at their special meeting on Tuesday, July 29.
City staff is recommending the Council place an extension measure on the November ballot that would have a sunset clause ending the tax in 9 years. The original measure approved by voters in 2010 had a 5 year sunset provision.
Unlike the original measure (Measure Q) the proposed extension contains a provision allowing a unanimous City Council to terminate the tax earlier.
Changed Financial Realities
When Measure Q was passed in 2010 the hope was 5 years of additional revenue would provide stop gap funding for core city services until the local economy recovered from the Great Recession. The economic recovery is taking a lot longer than expected.
Within a year of Measure Q’s passage the State of California eliminated all Redevelopment Agencies. This was an unforeseen multi-million dollar state takeaway of funding for city efforts that put yet another hole in the City’s budget.
Since 2008 the city has been in cutting mode with staffing and program reductions of 25 percent. Many routine maintenance and community services were cut or deferred. The estimated costs to address needed repairs to roads, parks and public buildings that were postponed during the Great Recession is about $7.4 million per year.
Cut or Protect Core City Services?
The City’s recently adopted budget and 10 year financial forecast recognizes these changed financial realities since the passage of Measure Q. Both documents show that Measure Q dollars have been spent as intended – to protect core city services – but that the changed financial realities will require another $4 million dollars in permanent budget reductions if Measure Q is allowed to expire in 2016.
Let the Voters Decide
The extension of the half-cent sales tax is a quality of life issue for Concord residents and business owners. Further cuts in city services affect everyone. Letting our roads, parks and community facilities deteriorate will only make their repair more expensive in the future.
No one likes paying taxes. But at least this local tax is supporting local services, facilities and cannot be taken away by Sacramento. The City Council will still need to manage city finances very closely – so expenses are not allowed to outpace regular, ongoing revenues.
The bonus is the new “early termination” provision provides an opportunity for the City Council to end the tax early should the regular revenue sources provide sufficient funding for ongoing services.
What do you think? Should the City Council place a measure on the November ballot to extend the half-cent sales tax for up to 9 years?