Opinion - Half-Cent Sales Tax Increase for Elk Grove – How Important Are New City Amenities?



By Constance V. Conley | March 23, 2016 |

The electorate of the city of Elk Grove may be asked to approve a half-cent sales tax increase on the November 2016 ballot. For what, you may ask? 

The Elk Grove City Council has a very long wish list of new amenities they have promised many different groups. They are, in no order of preference, an aquatics center, a new Senior Center, a Veterans’ Hall, a youth sports soccer complex which could also include a stadium, and an animal shelter. 

Many would agree that is a very long and pricey list of great amenities which would certainly enhance the quality of life here in Elk Grove. Except for one major roadblock – MONEY!

The cold hard truth is that there is no money for all these projects except for 14 million dollars earmarked for the aquatics center – that is, only if it is built on civic center land in Laguna Ridge. And here’s the kicker, 14 million dollars isn’t enough money – three million more is needed to construct the aquatics center. 

The only bright spot that has come to light regarding the proposed aquatics center -- given its many setbacks with funding, the lawsuit, finding a contractor, and no operator -- is that the Cosumnes Community Services District is now at the table and may contract with the city of Elk Grove to operate the center – that is, if it is ever built.

The city council has bantered about how to fund all these projects from public/private partnerships which only resulted in a lawsuit, to bond measures, and then finally settled on a half-cent sales tax increase. Ten of thousands of taxpayer dollars were spent on a survey of 500 people here in Elk Grove to gauge the climate for a sales tax increase. The initial survey results were iffy at best; so the city council approved an additional $70,000 to continue public outreach at the March 9th Elk Grove City Council meeting, allocating a total of $117,600 to date to contractor, the Lew Edwards Group. Another phase of public outreach costing $121,000 is on hold for now.

Another major issue facing the Elk Grove City Council is how to fund the eight to 10 million dollars needed to fix our deteriorating roads. Regular road maintenance is critical to any city, especially one that is dedicated to economic development; not to mention maintaining the value of our neighborhoods, ergo our home values, and surrounding areas. Without regular maintenance, roads can rapidly fall into disrepair; having both direct and indirect costs.

Where are we going to get the money to fix our roads?

If the Elk Grove City Council approves the half-cent sales tax increase question to be put on the November ballot, the next hurdle is how will it be presented to the voting public. If the increase is strictly earmarked -- meaning the voters will know exactly how the money is going to be spent -- the measure must be approved by a 66-percent threshold. However, if the city council decides not to disclose how the money will be spent, only a simple majority voter approval is needed.  Sounds backwards, doesn’t it?

Therefore, if the Elk Grove City Council decides on the easier voting approval route, and the measure passes, then how are they going to decide which project is going to be funded first?  How far will a half-cent sales tax increase go? Will road maintenance be at the end of a long list?

Bottom line, my fellow citizens, if you want all of these great new amenities for our city, along with having our roads fixed, we are going to have to pay for them. 

And the final, and most important, question: What say you voters of Elk Grove?

Copyright© 2016 by Constance V. Conley. All rights reserved.



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3 comments

I ride around in my turnip truck said...

..."Bottom line, my fellow citizens, if you want all of these great new amenities for our city, along with having our roads fixed, we are going to have to pay for the".

Reality Check: We have been paying for them all along. It's not our fault our so-called leaders have squandered our money on dream projects. Fix the roads with the money we already pay in taxes, and scale down your dream projects so you can build something!

"I know nobody knows
Where it comes and where it goes
I know it's everybody sin
You got to lose to know how to win"

Aerosmith, Dream On

Big O said...

If the voters approve the half-cent tax increase it will allow the City Council to have more money to waste on pipe dreams. Stop all spending until a audit is performed to get the true dollar amount that has been wasted on projects that have never started. Start with the new City Hall - way over a $1,000,000 just on architectural fees then add everything else to truly determine if you, the voters, want to provide more money to waste

Thomas A. Anderson said...

In regards to this opinion piece, I reference back to the story posted on this site regarding the wording of the sales tax proposal.

In either case, I simply do not trust that our city council members will act responsibility should they generate this extra revenue. Our Mello Roos fees are growing at a rate that seems to be greater than the consumer price index, and yet our council men [apparently] feel compelled to go to the well to drain the savings of our residents.

My guess is they will go for the non-specific wording that has the lower threshold. They will wrap it up in the aquatics center and all the other goodies they have promised to voters and it will pass. And yet, our Mello Roos fees will increase at a rate greater than the CPI, senior citizens in area like Glenbrooke will be priced out of their houses [does anyone remember why Prop 13 originally passed way back in 1978?] and the city executive team will collect their overly-generous CALPERS health and retirement benefits while EGPD will squeeze the city council for more money and armaments while this city becomes an even dumpier fringe city.

As Ole Blue Eyes would croon, That's Life!?

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