Arroyo Grande seeking higher sales tax and face mask fines


The Arroyo Grande City Council is scheduled on Tuesday to move forward on a 1 percent sales tax increase, and approval of fines for people who do not wear face masks.

Earlier this year, facing a $1.2 million budget shortfall, the council cut employee costs and services, resulting in a balanced budget. However, the city continues to struggle with a $3.5 million in annual unfunded maintenance costs for roads, public buildings, public works and parks.

A new 1 percent sales tax increase would generate up to $4 million annually, according to the staff report. If approved by the council, the city will place a 1 percent sales tax increase measure on the November ballot, increasing the sales tax from 7.75 to 8.75 percent.

Last fall, the Arroyo Grande City Council received harsh community criticism for voting to increase council member stipends by 60 percent, and the mayor’s stipend by 97 percent. Additionally, after activist Julie Tacker discovered Mayor Caren Ray-Russom had used city funds to purchase a personalized jacket and an $18 shot of whiskey, Ray-Russom reimbursed the city.

On Tuesday, the council is also scheduled to discuss an ordinance that will allow the city to fine violators of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s face mask rule. If approved, fines would start at $100 for the first offense, $200 for the second offense, and $500 for each additional offense in the same year.

“Of course, if the council decides to approve such an ordinance, education, outreach, and warnings to comply will  be always the first course of action,”  Councilman Jimmy Paulding posted on Facebook. “The fact is the numbers are rising and we need to get serious as a community or risk getting mandated by the state to go back a phase in the reopening process.”

On Tuesday at 6 p.m., the council will meet by teleconference. Members of the public can provide public comment during the meeting by calling (833) 493-5844 or by submitting written public comments to the Clerk of the Council at