Atascadero City Council takes first step to put sales tax hike on Nov. 4 ballot

tstrickland@thetribunenews.comApril 22, 2014 

Atascadero voters may be deciding in the fall whether to raise the city’s sales tax rate.

After much discussion, the City Council on Tuesday unanimously voted to direct its staff to prepare a proposal for the council to consider on June 24 on whether to put a half percent sales tax measure on the Nov. 4 ballot.

The tax increase is expected to generate $1.7 million to $2 million annually, which the council said would go toward fixing the city’s roads.

Councilman Bob Kelley said, “I’m not for new taxes or fees, never have been, but our roads situation is a crisis.”

As council members opted to go forward with exploring a tax increase, they also said they wanted to get more public comment on the proposal.

Said Mayor pro tem Brian Sturtevant, “We need the public to have that input, too. … Let us know what to do with our town.”

The city plans to host a workshop and do other outreach on the issue between now and the June 24 meeting, officials said.

If the measure goes before voters and they approve it, Atascadero shoppers would see the city sales tax increase rise from the current 7.5 percent to 8 percent for 10 years.

Atascadero would no longer be the only city in San Luis Obispo County that has kept the state’s 7.5 percent base tax on sales receipts. Shoppers in the county’s six other cities already pay an 8 percent sales tax. The sales tax rate is 7.5 percent in unincorporated areas.

Residents who spoke at the meeting said they generally favored a sales tax hike if the money specifically went to road repairs and improvements. One resident asked to see a list of roads that would be fixed.

In addition to moving forward on a possible general sales tax measure, the council also will consider an advisory measure focused on road maintenance. Both measures would require a simple majority vote for passage. Advisory measures aren’t legally binding but help guide where the money would be spent, officials said.

The council also proposed creating a citizens advisory committee to oversee expenditures of the sales tax, if it is passed.

The total cost of placing the measures on the ballot is estimated to be about $10,000 and would be paid out of the general fund.

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