Los Banos sales tax hike passes; up­date on other area races

Merced Sun-Star - - Local - BY VIKAAS SHANKER vshanker@mer­ced­sun­star.com

The sales tax in the City of Los Banos will jump from 8.25 per­cent to 8.75 per­cent with the ex­tra rev­enue fund­ing a slew of city ser­vices.

A ma­jor­ity of Los Banos res­i­dents, 2,574 of them, voted in fa­vor of Mea­sure H, con­sti­tut­ing 64.16 per­cent of votes cast on the bal­lot ques­tion, ac­cord­ing to Tues­day night elec­tion re­sults. About 1,438 peo­ple, or 35.84 per­cent, voted against the mea­sure.

The mea­sure’s tax in­crease is ex­pected to raise the city’s general fund rev­enues by about $2.5 mil­lion each year for the next 15 years.

The funds can be used by the city “for any le­git­i­mate gov­ern­men­tal pur­pose such as fire and po­lice pro­tec­tion, traf­fic safety, street and side­walk re­pair, park main­te­nance, and general ad­min­is­tra­tion of the city,” ac­cord­ing to an im­par­tial anal­y­sis of the mea­sure by the city at­tor­ney.

The Los Banos City Coun­cil iden­ti­fied a list of spend­ing pri­or­i­ties, with 45 per­cent of funds go­ing to­ward main­tain­ing po­lice pa­trols and crime pre­ven­tion, about 15 per­cent for fire­fight­ing re­sources, 15 per­cent to­ward main­tain­ing parks and re­cre­ation fa­cil­i­ties, 10 per­cent on 9-1-1 re­sponse and 5 per­cent each on clean­ing up city blight, youth pro­grams and curb­ing gang in­flu­ence, and main­tain­ing long-term fi­nan­cial sta­bil­ity.

“We def­i­nitely ap­pre­ci­ate the com­mu­nity in sup­port­ing Mea­sure H,” City Man­ager Alex Ter­razas said. “I think the coun­cil’s adop­tion of spend­ing pri­or­i­ties ... was im­por­tant to the com­mu­nity.”

Op­po­nents of the mea­sure have said it was too vague and doesn’t bind the funds to their in­tended pur­pose, po­ten­tially al­low­ing fu­ture city coun­cil ad­min­is­tra­tions to stray from the mea­sure’s in­tended use of funds.

Los Banos busi­ness­woman Kathy Bal­lard, who was out­spo­ken against the mea­sure, said “it’s sad” to see a tax in­crease levied on the whole city by the de­ci­sion of about 1,200 peo­ple.

“It’s done, and the few peo­ple have spo­ken,” Bal­lard said. “My only choice is to make sure (the funds) are used wisely.”

Bal­lard said she will be seek­ing a po­si­tion on the city’s Mea­sure H over­sight com­mit­tee, and that she hopes res­i­dents over the next 15 years keep tabs on the city govern­ment and how the Mea­sure H funds are spent.

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