The Visalia City Council voted unanimously this week to put a half-cent sales tax measure on the November ballot.
To pass, the measure would require a 50 percent plus one majority of city voters.
Called the Essential City Services Protection Measure, it would generate $10.8 million per year.
The tax is needed because the state keeps taking funding from cities, according to the preamble of an ordinance that the council approved.
Additionally, sales tax revenues have been stagnating, as growth in sales taxes hasn’t keep pace with demand for city services due to changes in consumer habits, including Internet sales that are not taxed, the city said.
Public safety has always been No. 1.
Steve Nelsen, Visalia mayor
Although the sales tax hike would generate general revenue, meaning the funds could be spent on any need, city leaders are promising to spend it on police, fire and roads, as well as parks and recreation, and maintenance and emerging community needs.
“Public safety has always been No. 1,” Mayor Steve Nelsen said.
The money created by the tax would allow Visalia to hire 30 additional police officers, according to a table issued by the city.
An oversight committee would be established and the incoming funds kept in a separate account, Nelsen said.
For months, the council has been contemplating going to the public with the proposal. A survey showed that a 50 percent-plus-one-vote measure had the most public support.
Despite the 5-0 vote to put it on the ballot, Council Member Warren Gubler said he was skeptical about tax increases.
“We all have budgetary issues – you just spend less,” Gubler said. “I’m not going to be out campaigning for it.”
Visalia’s sales tax is currently 8.25 percent. (Fresno is 8.225 percent.) The council would have to reauthorize the sales tax every eight years by a four-fifths majority.
A committee will be formed to educate the public and urge support, Nelsen said.