Officials agree that Atasquadero cannot be maintained without additional taxes
On Tuesday evening, during a conference call with SLO-Span, Atasquadero City Council unanimously voted to increase the sales tax by one percent in the votes on 2020, which will be held in November this year.
The need to increase taxes was highlighted by Atasquadero City Manager Rachel Rickard, who highlighted Atasquadero’s lack of funding in several areas, but focused on public security (especially the police), and was reiterated in a survey carried out in January this year. The study was conducted by True North Research, and 65% of those surveyed said they would vote for the 1% sales tax.
We get about $745 per person to support police, firefighters, ambulance, highways, parks and everything else, Rickard told advice. A city like Pismo Beach receives almost $3,000 per person for this. Morro Cove, Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo, double what we get… …and Grover Beach works for about 200 bucks more per head.
Mr Ricard also explained that thanks to these figures and the reductions and changes made in recent years following the economic depression of 2008, Atasquadero currently spends only 35.5% of the national average on police and 19% of the national average on fires, according to figures from Cleargov.com.
Between 1993 and 1994 we had about 1.1 to 1.2 officers per 1,000 [per capita]. Now we’re between 0.9 and 0.95, Mr. Rickard said. The national average for a city of our size is 1.7 police officers per 1,000 inhabitants.
The presentation also showed that Atasquadero is not only one of the most, if not the most poorly equipped police stations in the district, but also one of the lowest paid, Mr Ricard added: It’s possible. We’re doing a great job with what we have, but there are a lot of changes in the state that make it increasingly unsustainable. Deal 57, deal 47, no bail, all these things have reduced prison overcrowding, but by releasing people who were recently detained.
Following the presentation of the report, the Council started discussing six different sales tax criteria to be taken into account. Among the six topics discussed were an increase in the amount, the inclusion of a sunset clause, the creation of an advisory or monitoring committee for citizens or other measures to ensure transparency and accountability in the event that no committee is included in the decree.
The five members of the Executive Board then took the time to review the options under consideration, but quickly agreed on a one percent increase without a sunset clause, meaning that the increase would only remain in force until a certain date.
I’ve been on the board the longest, and I had an idea that we could grow a cake and make the city thrive, said Councillor Roberta Fonzi. I’m sadly disappointed in all our efforts, and there’s a lot of… I have come to the conclusion that we are not viable at the moment and that the future does not seem viable in itself.
Councillor Susan Funk addressed the fact that Atasquadero is now a vulnerable community and talked about the city’s dependence on reserves in recent years.
We’ve spent some of our reserves for several years, Funk added. Because we simply don’t generate enough money to finance the city’s current activities with the current VAT rate.
The municipal council cannot vote itself on the increase in the VAT rate, but only in the November vote, so that the citizens of Atasquadero can take a decision.
We’re just a sleepy community that doesn’t make a lot of money, said Mayor Charles Bourbaud. We’re not a poor community, but we’re a poor town. We don’t make much money. We have to give that to the voters so they can make a strategic decision about what they want from us.
With regard to the sunset clause, the five members of the Board of Directors agreed that this change is necessary in the foreseeable future to help the City recover from the current recession caused by COWID-19.
In those cases where most of the discussions took place, it was decided whether a citizens’ advisory committee or a citizens’ control committee should be involved in the decision. In the first round of discussions, Fonzie and Heather Newsom, members of the Executive Board, argued in favour of setting up a supervisory committee.
I think it’s important that the citizens of the community have a place to come and see what we’re doing that they can stay away from, Newsom told council. However, in the end, the Management Board decided not to include the Committee in the proposal because the money from the proceeds of the VAT increase would diminish and would not be used for purposes such as public security.
Instead of the Committee, the Executive Board asked staff to provide additional guidance on the process by which we can formally involve the public and develop an accountability plan.
Among the options presented on Tuesday are future financial meetings that will deal only with the cost of the increase, or documentation to be sent to all citizens of Atasquadero stating the cost.
The current tax rate in California is 7.25 percent, with the state receiving 6.25 percent of that income, while cities receive 1 percent.
Atasquadero’s current sales tax rate is 7.75%, and if adopted in November, it will enter into force on 1 January. April 2021 at 8.75%. No sales tax is levied on food, medicines, utility bills, services or property, rent or mortgage.
An additional sales tax is levied on items such as petrol, detergents, paper products, building materials and restaurants in the city, but also on cars registered in the city and on sales in the Amazon.
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