Despite public outcry against the potential tax hike, the Paso Robles City Council voted unanimously Wednesday to place a half percent sales tax measure on the November ballot.
If passed by voters, the tax hike would give Paso Robles the highest sales tax rate in San Luis Obispo County. The measure needs a simple majority vote in order to pass.
Currently, Paso Robles has a sales tax rate of 7.75 percent, .5 percent higher than the state of California rate of 7.25 percent. Like each city in SLO County, Paso Robles has an existing half percent sales tax as a result of a prior ballot measure.
In 2012, Paso Robles voters approved a sales tax increase on an approximately 59 percent to 41 percent vote. The new initiative would raise the North County city’s sales tax rate to 8.25 percent.
Initially, city officials were pushing a 1 percent tax increase. But the council decided Wednesday to go with a measure that instead proposes a half percent increase.
Public comment was overwhelmingly against any tax hike measure.
City officials say the November initiative would generate about $4 million to $5 million annually for Paso Robles’s general fund. Staffers say certain city services are underfunded in the current budget.
In order to sell the measure, Paso Robles officials have been saying the revenue would go toward city streets and emergency services. A survey conducted by a polling company hired by the city found voters prioritize spending on street repairs and improving law enforcement and emergency services.
Recently, the San Luis Obispo City Council likewise floated the idea of a sales tax increase. The San Luis Obispo council tabled the idea because of a lack of support, but it is still considering placing the measure on the 2020 ballot.
Paso Robles is the only city in the county placing a sales tax initiative on this November’s ballot. However, Paso Robles is one of many cities in California pursuing a sales tax increase.
Numerous sales tax initiatives have arisen following a CalPERS rate adjustment and surging pension costs that have damaged many cities’ budgets. Critics are alleging cities in California are pushing tax hikes to pay for pension costs while packaging the measures as initiatives to fund police, fire protection and other vital services.