Joe Krovoza, the mayor of Davis, has the expertise needed to succeed as the 4th District assemblyman.

Davis voters to weigh sales tax measure on June ballot

Published: Sunday, May. 4, 2014 - 9:36 pm

A Davis ballot measure will ask residents June 3 to pay more at the cash register to help the city reduce its $5.1 million budget deficit and supply the cash it says it needs to repair and maintain crumbling roads, aging buildings and other facilities.

Measure O would extend by four years a half-percent sales tax set to expire in 2016 and increase the levy another half percentage point. That would bring the city’s sales tax rate to 8.5 percent, the highest in Yolo County.

The increase would supply about $3.6 million a year to the city. Even with the infusion, Davis officials say the city would still need to reduce spending by $1.5 million to balance its ledger.

Mayor Joe Krovoza said tens of millions of dollars in deferred road maintenance must be addressed and, with few state and federal funding options for infrastructure, the mayor and measure’s supporters say a sales tax increase is the best temporary solution.

If Measure O is not approved, the current 8 percent sales tax would remain in place until Dec. 31, 2016, when it would decrease to 7.5 percent.

“We’re trying to tread water in maintaining municipal infrastructure, in particular, roads,” Krovoza said. Measure O would “put money toward this, but it still won’t be enough.”

Measure O opponents say the red ink is City Hall’s own doing, the product of poor fiscal management. They say leaders have leaned too heavily on taxpayers to stop the bleeding, while not doing enough to draw the businesses that would boost sales tax revenue.

Lead among them is Jose Granda, the Davis resident and California State University, Sacramento, professor who also was a harsh critic of recent measures for parcel taxes to fund schools.

“The city makes the argument that the sales tax is for roads and bike paths, but their history of performance is their own worst enemy,” Granda said. “They say, ‘Our budget is in the red. Let’s go to the ATM and everything will be OK.’ They need to stop spending money the way they’ve done.”

City leaders say they have made painful choices to cut costs while trying to maintain services and attract new business.

“Davis has a long history of funding city priorities – parks, green belts, infrastructure – but we have been making major cuts to the city budget,” said City Councilman Lucas Frerichs, who supports Measure O, calling it a “short-term solution.”

Krovoza said the city has slashed $11 million from its budget over the last six years, including a cut of more than a fifth of its workforce. Last winter, Davis City Council agreed to share fire-service management with UC Davis to cut costs. If the latest tax measure fails, as many as 50 positions in a workforce of 360 employees could be at stake, Krovoza said.

“Close watchers of the City Council know we’ve worked tirelessly to bring business to the city,” Krovoza said. “They know how serious we are about economic development. … It defies reality for someone to say we’re going to the ATM machine for money we don’t need.”

Granda fears another parcel tax measure is on tap for November. The council is considering putting a such a measure on the ballot but has not yet made a decision, Frerichs said.

Along with Measure O, Granda said the levies would add to the burden Davis residents already bear.

“An 8.5 percent sales tax would be the highest sales tax in Yolo County. They say we need a sales tax in June and a parcel tax in November, and we said, ‘Here we go again,’ ” Granda said. “Our aim is to defeat the sales tax and gear up to fight the parcel tax in November.”

Call The Bee’s Darrell Smith, (916) 321-1040.

Read more articles by Darrell Smith

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