Wording for the measure will be brought back to the council during its July 22 meeting
The Cloverdale City Council voted 4-0-1 to direct city staff to bring forward a ballot measure for the Nov. 3 ballot, which would ask voters to extend the city’s user utility tax until it’s repealed by voters. Councilmember Marta Cruz was absent from the meeting.
As it stands, the city’s user utility tax is at 3% and is set to sunset in January 2023 — the renewal measure will allow it to extend beyond the sunset date while remaining at the same tax percentage.
The user utility tax was initially passed as Measure O in November 2014. During the 2019-20 fiscal year, the tax brought in approximately $446,000 to the city’s general fund.
While all councilmembers were in favor of bringing wording for the tax measure back to the council, the councilmembers had to decide if they wanted to ask voters to maintain the current tax percentage without the sunset, or if they wanted the measure to be for a 4% tax rate and have it set to sunset in eight years.
Councilmember Melanie Bagby said that she would support either option, but favored the increase in percentage.
“I think it’s splitting into two options, either of which I can live with and get out and ask for support on,” she said. “My preference would be going for 4% at eight years and the reason is that I think, especially if the councilmembers really agree to get out and sell this to the voters, we are being asked right now to take on duties and to support our nonprofits in ways that we never have before.”
While the city has heard increased need for support from local nonprofits, Vice Mayor Jason Turner asked if the city could think of other ways to bolster its revenue rather than asking for an increase in utility tax. He ultimately voiced support for continuing with the 3% tax rate.
Councilmember Mary Ann Brigham said that she’s hesitant to ask voters for an increased tax rate, given the current economic uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“My inclination, especially in the times we’re living in right now, is to go for keeping it the same, with no sunset,” Brigham said. “It may not be in two years, maybe in four years, maybe in six years, but we may want to add a percent or two percent (to the tax). I just think it would be the most logically secure way to go at this point in time.”
In surveys conducted by Godbe Research about the various scenarios and situations surrounding a potential measure renewal, those surveyed (a select group of 400 people) favored the repair of potholes and city streets, installation of power backup for PG&E power shutdowns, preparation and response to natural disasters and health emergencies and rapid 911 response as top tier uses of money from the measure. Second tier preferences for the measure include supporting youth and teen programs, maintaining city parks, supporting senior services, repairing sidewalks and others. The items that scored the lowest in the survey includes renovating city hall, building a new police station and building new city parks.
The full text of the measure will be presented to the council at its meeting on July 22. Ballot measures for the November election must be approved by Aug. 7 to appear on the ballot.