By CCN STAFF
During a contentious city council meeting on Tuesday, members of the Arroyo Grande Council were split 2-3 on whether or not to place a 1 percent sales tax increase on the November ballot, causing the proposal, which requires a 4-1 vote, to fall short.
The sales tax would have helped the city cover $3.5 million in annual unfunded maintenance costs for roads, public buildings, public works and parks. It was expected to generate $4 million a year.
Prior to the meeting, the city council received 18 letters from the public, 17 opposed to the tax increase including one from the South County Chamber of Commerce, and one in favor. Residents questioned the timing and the city’s spending habits.
“This is not a way to compensate for poor budgeting by the city,” Ken Peterson wrote. “The citizens of Arroyo Grande didn’t create this problem so don’t feel we should all be punished with extra sales taxes and mask fines.”
During public comment, all but two of the speakers voiced opposition to the proposed sales tax increase. Former mayor Jim Hill suggested the council lower the current sales tax rate and then advertise that people can get the lowest prices by shopping in Arroyo Grande.
Speaking first, Ray-Russom said she could not get behind a sales tax increase at this time. Councilwoman Lan George then agreed with Ray-Russom.
Council members Keith Storton, Jimmy Paulding and Kristen Barneich voiced support for a sales tax increase, but failed in an attempt to get George to change her vote.
Mayor Ray-Russom then gave her fellow council members 10 seconds to make a motion, and no one did.
During the same meeting, the council voted 5-0 in favor of an ordinance to allow the city to fine violators of state and county face mask rules. Fines would start at $100 for the first offense, $200 for the second offense, and $500 for each additional offense in the same year. The council agreed the fines would be complaint driven.