Election Endorsements

Endorsements: No to sales tax, yes to Budge and Skoglund in Rancho Cordova

As fixtures on the City Council and in the community, Linda Budge and Dan Skoglund have helped steer Rancho Cordova ever since it became a city in 2003. They merit four more years in office, particularly since there are no clear replacements.

Of the four challengers, Conrade Mayer, a counselor at Cordova High School who boasts a long record of civic service, is the most credible. If voters want some fresh blood, he’s their man. After losing a 2008 race for the Folsom Cordova Unified school board, Mayer says he’s not interested in that post. That’s too bad, because that’s where his passion and expertise lie.

Budge, a council member since the city’s founding, brings her planning expertise. Skoglund, a relocation consultant who has served since 2004, brings needed scrutiny on spending. They both pledge to enhance public safety and economic development while keeping the city fiscally lean.

But they disagree on the other crucial decision for city voters on Nov. 4 – whether to increase the local sales tax by a half cent, to 8.5 percent, which would pump $5 million a year into city coffers. The rate would be the same as Sacramento and Galt; it’s 8 percent in the rest of the county.

Skoglund, who’s serving as mayor, refused to join the other four council members in putting Measure H on the ballot. He argues that the city doesn’t need it, that homeowners are already getting hit by higher sewer fees and that local businesses would be less competitive.

He’s right. Raising taxes should be a last resort, yet even Measure H supporters don’t pretend it’s absolutely necessary. Also, there are significant problems with how the measure is drafted.

First, it tells voters that proceeds will be used to increase police patrols and other crime-prevention efforts, to expand senior centers and youth programs, to remove blight along Folsom Boulevard and to fix streets faster. These were priorities identified in a city-commissioned survey of residents late last year. But by law, it is a general tax, so only a simple majority is required for passage. If it’s approved, the city could spend proceeds on “any legitimate governmental purpose.”

Second, the measure does not require an independent audit that would tell the public exactly how the money is being spent. Though the city is pledging to appoint a citizen oversight committee, officials say that once revenue flows into the general fund, it’s hard to track.

Third, unlike sales tax increases elsewhere, there is no automatic sunset date or renewal vote (Sacramento’s expires in 2019). Rancho Cordova’s would continue indefinitely until it is repealed or suspended by the City Council or in another citywide vote.

Supporters portray Measure H as a way for the city of 68,000 to speed up its wish list of projects. They call it a “cushion” to make up for payments to Sacramento County as part of cityhood and the end of redevelopment agencies. But they acknowledge that if Measure H fails, no programs would be cut.

A tax hike that doesn’t end, isn’t transparent enough and isn’t essential? It’s not deserving of support.