Decision on Placing Elk Grove Sales Tax Hike on Ballot Punted, City Council Claims They Need More Information

March 1, 2018 |  

A decision on whether or not to place a controversial sales tax hike on one of two ballots in 2018 was deferred last night by the Elk Grove City Council by a 4-1 vote. The decision puts off a proposal that has been bandied about the city council for at least the last two years about seeking a sales tax hike in Elk Grove.

The decision came after the city council heard two presentations about recent surveys conducted on behalf of the city gauging voters mood on the tax increase. The four council members who voted to continued delaying their decision, Mayor Steve Ly, Vice Mayor Darren Suen, and Council Members Pat Hume and Stepanie Nguyen hedged commenting whether saying they supported hiking taxes on Elk Grove residents saying they needed more information and community outreach to make an informed decision.

Dissenting was Council Member Steve Detrick who said they have enough information now as they did in 2016 to make their decision on pursuing the take hike. Detrick also objected to any sort of tax hike saying "we are overburdening our communities" and the city council should stay within its budget.

"I would love to do all these things, I would love to do more, but you have to live within your means," Detrick said. "I drive a car with 270,000 miles on it; would I like to have a brand new car, sure, but I have to set my priorities for me and my family and it is not in the cards to be able to spend $70,000, $80,000 for a new car."

Prior to the vote affirming the delay and continued expenditures of taxpayer money to the consultants, Detrick offered a motion to kill the pursuit of the matter. The motion did not receive a second and died.

The vote came after a presentation from two consultants hired by the city to generate support of the measure and gauge the political waters of the tax hike proposal. The two companies and their representative were Laura Crotty of Clifford Moss who was paid to generate taxpayer support and Charles Hester of Godbe Research who conducted the surveys.

During their 40-plus minute presentation, Crotty and Hester discussed the various activities they were paid to perform including taxpayer outreach and opinion surveys. Both firms looked at taxpayers appetite for either a one-half or one percent increase in Elk Grove sales taxes.

Hester noted the survey conducted in January 2018 of 628 respondents classified as likely voters found that when taxpayers had little knowledge of the proposal, support was in the mid-60s. Towards the end of his presentation, however, Hester acknowledge the same survey found when taxpayers became informed of the tax hikes ramifications support dropped to the low 50s. (see video below).

If Elk Grove pursues a tax hike with a specific purpose, it must be approved with a 66.6-percent threshold. However, a measure with no specified use, which would allow the new tax revenue to be used in any manner the city council wishes, needs just a simple majority.

Elk Grove currently has an eight-percent sales tax. If the one-percent tax increase is pursued and approved, Elk Grove will have among the highest sales tax rates in the state of California.   

During public comment, Elk Grove resident Lynn Wheat recited quotes from former Elk Grove public works director Richard Shepard. In 2014 Shepard warned the city council that deferred road maintenance that had been backlogged for several years before then at an annual cost of $8 million whose rate will continue to escalate with each passing year. (see video of Shepard's 201 presentation here.)

The city will receive new funding from the recently enacted statewide gasoline tax hike that will reduce the annual road maintenance backlog. However, the funding will not cover the entire amount estimated by Shepard and does not address the tens-of-millions of dollars of accumulated maintenance neglect over the last several years.  

After citing several instances where the city wasted "millions of dollars that could have gone into our roads,"  Wheat said, "So now you are asking the residents of Elk Grove to pay more in sales tax to get something that you should have been doing all along."  

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D.J. Blutarsky said...

We are not a city of cheapskates! I watched the presentation last night and the consultant described a "one cent" tax? I mean, a lousy penny and look at all we are gonna get.

Reduce traffic congestion, lower crime, more economic development, trails, library, performing arts, soccer stadium, high end retail...for "one cent". So say I take my date out to dinner at Black Bear Diner and the bill comes to $32.99. For one cent more I get all this? Sign me up!

I also hope the city starts a GoFundMe page to help our City Council person buy a new car for $70,000 to $80,000, because it's bad for our image for our leaders to be seen driving clunkers.

Eye on Elk Grove said...

It goes to show that Steve Detrick cannot relate to the average Elk Grove resident and is seriously out of touch with most residents of Elk Grove. $70 to $80K for a new car? Unbelievable!

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