The Lompoc City Council recently voted unanimously to place Measure I2020 on their 2020 presidential ballot. The controversial Measure would increase their sales tax by 1% up to 8.75%.
The proposed policy would generate nearly $5 million of revenue for the town. The revenue would cover costs for services ranging from city parks to public safety.
The organization CalPERS will shortly elevate the cost of government worker pensions in Lompoc, another reason why this proposed plan may prove necessary. According to Mayor Jenelle Osborne, “This is a payment we have to make to CalPERS no matter what.” Without the tax hike, the city may face problems fulfilling their contract with CalPERS
According to Lompoc city leaders, they have little say in their contract with CalPERS. According to Councilman Jim Mosby, “It’s nothing the city did. It’s a debt we have to pay … There’s no way out of it except to pay.”
Until now Mosby has publicly voted against the implementation of such a tax reform. Mosby has historically spearheaded efforts to cut back on city spending by cutting down city jobs and lowering budgets for maintenance and services.
Mayor Osborne went on to say “That check will go to CalPERS no matter what. We need to make sure the money is still there to provide at least what services are there now and, hopefully in a healthy shopping year, do additional extra things like improve parks, buy new equipment or improve infrastructure.”
Although the city hopes to use these funds to further public goods such as parks and infrastructure, the majority of the proposed funds are said to be allocated towards public safety initiatives. “Eighty percent of the general fund is public safety — police and fire. This is going to police and fire, and that’s why it’s so critical,” explained Mayor Osborne.
According to Mosby, without the sales tax increase, services provided by the Fire Department, such as their rescue truck, would not be possible. “We don’t want to let that go,” Mosby said. The two-crew fire rescue truck responds to various calls and works to organize and boost firefighter numbers during urgent situations. The truck serves an integral function to the department as a means to respond to fires, crashes, and medical incidents.
According to Mosby, by taking advantage of the CalPers program, the city of Lompoc could save millions of dollars. “If we do this, here’s a win-win for you, which would also free up other funds and help us move forward.”
Measure I2020 specifies that “To maintain and improve public services, including neighborhood police patrols, firefighter staffing, gang enforcement, crime and vandalism prevention, street improvements, community and recreational services, park upgrades, reduction of long-term liabilities (which includes a potential savings of $21 million in interest payments), and other general city services, shall the measure establishing an additional maximum 1% sales tax, ending in 15 years, and estimated to generate $4,800,000 annually, be adopted?”
The citizens of Lompoc have historically rejected tax hikes in the past. Over 10 years ago the city rejected a public safety tax. By contrast, other areas in Santa Barbara have voted in favor of increased sales taxes.