It’s just the latest in Tulare County cities seeking a little more cash for their coffers, following sales tax increases in Lindsay, Woodlake and Farmersville last year, and Visalia in 2016. The Porterville City Council voted to move forward into the possibility of putting a sales tax increase measure this November.
“There have been a number of conversations regarding a potential tax measure,” Porterville City Manager John Lollis said at the council’s February 6 meeting.
Lollis cited the council’s desire to look into an indoor sports youth facility, to enhance public safety, to consider a new library facility, and to improve roads within city limits as examples of projects needing funding.
Some discussion was held regarding a possible general tax measure versus a specialized tax measure – the first of which would allow possible suggestions for the tax use to be given, but not enforced, according to the city’s attorney, Julia Lew. A specialized tax is just that – specific for its use and intent and therefore the income from that tax must be used for that designated purpose.
There are only specific times in which a general tax measure may be placed on the ballot – one of those times is coming up in November. A special tax has a few more options as to when it can be placed on a ballot, but is also more limiting in scope.
“The great thing about a ballot measure is that the people get to make the decision,” said Councilman Cameron Hamilton. “All we’ve got to do is put it out there for them.”
“The mayor’s brought up several things that need to be taken care of and we can’t do it with what we’ve got,” he said.
Hamilton made a motion for staff to move forward with consideration of a measure to be placed on the November ballot, which was seconded and passed.
What moving forward entails is hiring a firm to perform community polling to determine whether a sales tax increase measure is even feasible, Lollis said in a Voice interview.
“To find what is the general community sense,” he said. “Is it more supportive of a general measure?”
The city plans to have that firm contract in place by the end of the month. During March, the outside firm will “conduct and analyze polling, assess measure feasibility; finalize timetable and outreach plan,” according to the city’s proposed timeline. The city then has April/May to decide whether to move forward.
If the city chooses to pursue the matter, decisions will need to be made regarding the amount, ¼ or ½-cent increase. By July the council will need to finalize the ballot question, develop its expenditure plan and develop voter handout materials, according to the timeline.
Last November, Woodlake passed a 1% city sales tax and Farmersville a 1/2% increase. With a special ballot in June, 2017, Lindsay passed a 1% sales tax increase. And, in 2016, Visalians passed Measure N, a ½-cent increase to fund that city’s general services.
If Porterville chooses not to move forward this November, it will have to wait until 2020 to revisit the possibility.