RIVERSIDE: Voters may see sales tax increase measure

RIVERSIDE: Voters may see sales tax increase measure

City Manager John Russo will ask council to put a 1-cent sales tax increase on already crowded November ballot.

The crowded November ballot may get even longer for Riverside voters, who could see a sales tax proposal that would pay for public safety and other city services.

City Manager John Russo will ask the council on July 26 to put a one-cent sales tax on the fall ballot that would raise an estimated $48 million a year.

A city-commissioned poll of 600 voters suggests the measure has a good chance of success, with more than 60 percent saying they’d definitely or probably vote yes.

It would be a general tax, so the City Council would decide how the money would be spent. A tax for a specified purpose requires two-thirds of voters’ approval to pass, while a general tax need only cross the 50 percent threshold.

In crafting the 2016-18 budget, city officials warned of multi-million dollar deficits for the next several years if spending wasn’t reduced. The council agreed to $10.5 million in cuts for the current fiscal year.

Russo said the money from a sales tax could pay for better maintenance of city streets, buildings and equipment such as the police and fire department fleets. It could also fund additional homeless services and enforcement, and help provide new facilities such as a police headquarters and downtown library.

The number of homeless people in the city was a concern for most of those polled, and maintaining 911 service and repairing roads were among their top priorities.

Russo said he’s worried a Riverside tax measure could be overlooked at the bottom of a long ballot, but he thinks higher turnout for the presidential race may be a benefit.

Jack Pitney, politics professor at Claremont McKenna College, said ballot fatigue is a real concern.

With 17 statewide measures qualified so far, voters may be overwhelmed and vote no, he said.

Some may show up to vote in the presidential race, then “see a daunting number of propositions and say to heck with it” and not vote on other items, Pitney said.


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