By JOSH FRIEDMAN
With most cities in San Luis Obispo County considering tax hikes, the Atascadero and Morro Bay City Councils both voted unanimously Tuesday to place 1 percent sales tax increase measures on their respective cities’ November ballots.
Currently, all seven SLO County cities have sales tax rates of 7.75 percent. Each of the seven cities have adopted their own half percent sales tax in the past.
If approved by a majority of voters, the new ballot initiatives will raise the sales tax rates in Atascadero and Morro Bay to 8.75 percent.
Atascadero officials say additional sales tax revenue is needed for public safety, as well as for infrastructure improvements and city employee salaries. Atascadero has approximately half the national average of police officers for a city its size, according to a staff report.
Morro Bay officials say a 1 percent sales tax increase would generate $1.5-$2 million in new revenue for the city. The city of Morro Bay is currently grappling with a sharp decrease in tourism due to the coronavirus.
The Paso Robles City Council has already given initial approval for a 1 percent sales tax measure, and it is expected to formally place the initiative on the November ballot at its meeting next week.
Additionally, the Grover Beach and San Luis Obispo city councils will discuss 1 percent sales tax increase measures at their upcoming meetings. Both the Grover Beach and SLO councils are likely to vote to place the tax increase measures on the November ballot.
Last fall, Grover Beach City Manager Matthew Bronson said, despite the city receiving more than 10 percent of its revenue from its new marijuana tax, there were ongoing police and fire staffing needs, which could be addressed by a tax measure. Also last fall, the city of SLO released the results of a survey that found 63 percent of residents were at least leaning toward supporting a ballot initiative that would raise the sales tax by 1 percent.
Grover Beach and SLO were two of several local cities that had been considering placing tax increase measures on the November 2020 ballot months prior to the coronavirus crisis, which has wreaked havoc on municipal budgets.
A sales tax initiative also came before the Arroyo Grande City Council, but council members were split 3-2, causing the proposal, which requires a 4-1 vote, to fail.