CALIFORNIA CITY — The City Council, on Tuesday, denied the request by Councilmember Karen Macedonio to ask California City voters to approve a 1-cent sales tax measure, in November.
The proposed measure was intended to raise an estimated $750,000 annually for city services, revenue that would remain in the city. It would have required 51% of the vote to pass.
The city sales tax would help bolster the city’s General Fund to provide services including the police and fire departments, Animal Services, code enforcement, parks and recreation, the airport and golf course, according to the staff report. A Citizen’s Oversight Committee would be formed to help direct use of the tax funds.
The sales tax in Cal City stands at the state minimum of 7.25%, and the proposed city sales tax would increase that to 8.25%. This would bring Cal City in line with other Kern County cities, including Bakersfield, Arvin, Delano, Ridgecrest, Taft and Wasco, which have instituted their own sales taxes. Kern County is also asking residents in the unincorporated areas, in November, to approve a sales tax increase to 8.25%, with the resulting revenues to be used strictly in the unincorporated areas.
The additional funds would help make up for the reduction in property values — and associated property taxes, Macedonio said.
“We have to have funds to operate the government entity,” Macedonia said. “This particular tax is an opportunity for us to carve out local tax money that doesn’t go anywhere else.”
The Council was asked only to place the measure on the ballot, for voters to decide. Details as to the ordinance that would make it policy was not presented, an omission that concerned Mayor Pro Tem Nick Lessenevitch, who said they were being asked to disregard the most binding part of the matter.
Interim City Attorney Victor Ponto said the information for discussion, as presented, meets the requirements of the Ralph M. Brown Act, the state’s open-meeting law.
Councilmember Kelly Kulikoff opposed the sales tax, stating it would encourage residents to shop outside of the city instead, and that imposing such a tax on residents shows a failure for the city to generate other revenue streams through development.
“We really need to look at ourselves,” he said. “We’re not moving in the right direction, yet we keep asking the residents for more money.”
Mayor Jeanie O’Laughlin cautioned that the new tax revenues would be used in calculating the annual rate for the special parcel tax, further lowering it and offsetting much of the gains of the new sales tax.
Some residents opposed the proposal’s lack of a sunset date, making it an indefinite tax increase.
The proposed measure was denied on a 3-1 vote, with Macedonio dissenting and Councilmember Jim Creighton absent.