Among the things that come with summer, we have the start of the annual City budget process. At an overflow meeting of the Animal Services Board, City Manager Dominguez stated that we are looking at a $2.3 million shortfall this year. Unlike the feds, the city isn't allowed to "print" money. Some combination of new revenue and/or spending cuts will be required.
This Blog began as a site in opposition to the City's half-cent sales tax. In over a decade of opposing the tax, it was defeated three times, then approved by voters twice, last time for a twenty year term with specific projects part of what voters approved. At that time, we agreed it had changed from a multimillion open "slush fund" to a voter approved tax with satisfactory legal limits. We have not opposed the tax itself since.
It has been mentioned our existing authorization by voters is getting short enough to have an impact on our ability to issue bonds backed by the 4b tax. If Council wants to we can have something besides smoking on November's ballot.
Section 327 Tax Code allows us, if the voters approve, to designate one eighth cent of the tax we already pay to a Street Maintenance Tax. Even with a lower sales tax gross, this is about a million bucks a year. It might put off already approved projects a year or so. It would not solve our shortfall, but it could help.
A Street Maintenance tax can be part of a single ballot measure reducing the existing 4b tax by the same amount; we are maxed out, cannot simply add one-eighth cent. Regardless of the length of time we add to 4b in general, the Street tax part expires in 4 years. If we look at it in 4 years, we can reauthorize it; if it didn't work so well, we just let it die.
This special provision does not allow for construction of new streets, only maintenance of what we have. Council and staff have come close to pulling rabbits out of the budget hat to reduce ad valorem tax by a cent a year five years in a row. I will use an argument from the old days: putting some of street maintenance on sales tax will get revenue from people who use the streets but don't live here. It won't increase the tax paid by anyone, but it would give us about a million a year for pot-hole money.
Strikes me as worth a thought. The initiative for this must come from Council, not a petition. Voters still get the final say. If we don't at least give it a look, we are passing up an opportunity.