Citrus Heights residents will decide Nov. 6 whether to boost the city's utility users tax to fund street maintenance and public safety.
Measure K calls for a 1.75 percent increase in the existing utility users tax bringing it to a total of 4.25 percent for 10 years.
As a special tax, it requires approval by two-thirds of the voters but ensures that the money would go only to the specified purposes. The tax applies to electric, gas, sewer, cable television and telephone bills. The measure also would update the city utility users tax ordinance to include wireless communications, private communication service, paging and Internet phones.
City officials say the increase would cost the average resident about $5 per month and generate about $2 million annually for the city.
Half the additional revenue would go toward residential street resurfacing. Officials say 65 percent of city streets are in fair or poor condition, and at the current level of funding, 90 percent would be in poor condition 10 years from now.
The other $1 million would go toward public safety: $625,000 for additional police officers, $250,000 for police equipment and technology, and $125,000 for programs to prevent youth crime and violence.
Placed on the ballot by the City Council, the measure has been endorsed by the Citrus Heights Chamber of Commerce and is supported by five of the six City Council candidates.
Signers of the ballot argument against the measure include Ted Costa, CEO of Peoples Advocates Inc.; Ken Payne, president of the Sacramento Taxpayers Association; and council candidate Bret Daniels.
Opponents argue that the tax increase would discourage business growth, and without job opportunities people won't move to Citrus Heights. They also note that the dollar amount of the tax would increase along with utility rates, which are likely to increase during the decade. They suggest using some of the city's $33 million general fund reserve instead of raising taxes.
Daniels said he doesn't buy the argument that more police officers are needed to handle offenders who under the state prison realignment are now supervised by county probation officers rather than state parole officers. He said two probation officers were to be assigned to the city for that purpose.
Don Meyer, county chief probation officer, however, said a proposal to assign probation officers to each city in the county was rejected, with funds going instead to increase the number of jail beds. Offenders in Citrus Heights are part of probation officers' countywide caseloads.
"Crime is ticking up," Police Chief Christopher Boyd said, citing 306 auto thefts in the city between Jan. 1 and Aug. 1 of this year. That's a 78 percent increase over the 172 reported during the same period in 2011.
Bill Van Duker, a longtime resident and Citrus Heights business owner, signed the argument supporting Measure K.
"We're one of two cities in the state that are debt-free and we've done that without property tax (revenue)," he said.
As one of the conditions of incorporation, most of Citrus Heights' property tax revenue goes to the county for 25 years. The proposed utility users tax increase would end Dec. 31, 2022, when the city begins receiving its full share of property taxes.
"I don't want to let infrastructure deteriorate or let crime have a resurgence. I tend to look at it more as an investment than a burden," Van Duker said.