Viewpoint

Half-cent sales tax has enhanced the quality of life in Pismo Beach

July 1, 2014 

The Pismo Beach City Council and staff work hard to control costs, be fiscally conservative with tax money and make prudent infrastructure investments that build on our quality of life. No one likes to be taxed, however, six years ago, voters in the city of Pismo Beach realized that quality of life was important and they elected to tax themselves through Measure C, a half-penny sales tax collected to make improvements to our community.

This revenue has indeed made a significant impact. Over the past several years, these additional, locally collected revenues have resulted in projects such as paving neighborhood streets, repairing and building sidewalks, bluff protection and new park, drainage and coastal access improvements.

Major local tax revenues in Pismo Beach include the sales tax and the transient occupancy tax. Being a tourist community, approximately 70 percent of all sales taxes collected are paid by tourists. Although tourists pay the vast majority of sales taxes, just about all of the projects funded by the additional half-cent tax are located in our neighborhoods providing nearly all of the benefit to residents. Additionally, funds raised by the half-cent sales tax are independently tracked and audited and are used solely for capital projects and not for salaries or new programs. Because the tax has a “sunset” provision and must be renewed by registered voters, citizens remain in control of the funds.

Traditional revenue sources received from state or federal agencies require the city to use the funds for specific uses, taking the control away from the citizens. In addition, revenues that come through the state such as property taxes, gas taxes and vehicle fees have historically been subject to a tax grab by the state when their budget was underfunded. However, the state can’t touch local taxes, such as our half-cent sales tax. This revenue stream is protected and allows the City Council to directly invest in improvements and services with certainty.

Having funds to maintain the city’s infrastructure ensures other general tax revenue is available for valued services such as increased downtown and neighborhood safety, recreation opportunities such as the senior and father-daughter dances, major holiday events and regular maintenance to our popular and heavily used city facilities.

The existing half-cent sales tax must be renewed in November 2014 to continue being collected. If it isn’t renewed, $1.3 million in revenue per year will be lost, and this would have a detrimental impact on our ability to maintain the community. The tax continues to be a major driver in our city’s quality of life and in the quality of our parks, streets and sidewalks. I hope you will give its renewal strong consideration this November when you vote.

James R. Lewis is city manager of Pismo Beach.

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