Meet some of Sacramento’s suburban communities
Davis declared a “fiscal emergency” last week, allowing the City Council to hold a special election in March 2020 and place a 1 percent sales tax renewal measure on the ballot – a move made to ensure the city avoids the “drastic effects” of interrupted tax collection.
After being hit with a legal challenge in August, Davis must switch to district-based voting in time for its next City Council election, forcing the city to push back its election to November 2020.
But if the city waits until then to place a sales tax renewal on the ballot, the earliest Davis could start collecting revenue would be April 2021 – meaning the city would miss out on an anticipated $2.2 million in tax revenue when the tax sunsets next December, according to a staff report.
“This interruption to cash flow will exacerbate the inability to fund City services,” the staff report said, citing services including public safety, maintenance of city roads, sidewalks and parks, and recreational programs.
Under the California Constitution, general tax measures must be voted on during regularly scheduled local elections – except when a city council unanimously declares an emergency.
The situation last week marks the latest consequence of Davis moving to district-based elections for City Council races. The change was prompted by a former Yolo County supervisor’s demand letter to the city claiming the “insidious, racially polarized nature of the at-large election system” has prevented Asian American and Latino voters from achieving adequate representation.
Cities across the region, such as Roseville and Citrus Heights, have also been making the switch. Under the California Voting Rights Act, at-large elections are prohibited if they discriminate against minority groups by limiting their ability to influence election results.
Officials in these suburban cities have frequently argued district-based elections aren’t compatible with their communities, citing the lack of majority-minority enclaves that might be buoyed by a district representative. But no city has successfully defended an at-large voting method when challenged under CVRA, with some paying millions in settlement fees.
“It’s very frustrating that yet again, we’re being forced to do something,” said councilman Lucas Frerichs during a City Council meeting. “In order to not see the city face an adverse impact, we’re having to go and spend money on switching our regularly scheduled election to November for City Council, but of course also have this special election in March 2020.”
For the current fiscal year, the 1 percent sales tax – first approved in June 2014 – will raise $8.6 million for Davis, representing about 15 percent of the city’s total general fund.
A city survey conducted by independent researchers found that 77 percent of respondents would vote yes to a measure renewing the sales tax, according to the staff report.
The sales tax renewal measure will be consolidated with other Yolo County and statewide races on the March 3, 2020 election ballot.