By DAVID SCHOLZ
MARTINEZ, Calif. – The Martinez City Council moved one step closer Wednesday evening (July 20) to putting a special tax measure on the Nov. 8 ballot that would address essential street/roadway maintenance and related infrastructure within the city limits that city officials called “a dire situation.’’
The proposed .50 percent sales tax, to expire in 15 years and generate a projected $2.1 million annually, will be revisited at a second hearing slated for Aug. 3. If the ballot measure is approved by two-thirds of city voters, this tax would take effect April 1, 2017, on retail sales in the City of Martinez.
An oversight committee, designed to serve in an auditing capacity to ensure the money raised is being spent in accordance with the ballot measure, also was approved by councilmembers. This is similar to the function of the body approved for Measure H oversight.
At the Aug. 3 second hearing for the special tax ordinance, an ad hoc subcommittee made up of Mayor Rob Schroder and Councilmember Lara DeLaney is also hoping to have a draft of argument for the tax. Final language for the measure will also be taken at the Aug. 3 meeting. The deadline for submitting this measure to Contra Costa County Election officials for the November ballot is Aug. 12.
No one speaking at Wednesday’s hearing disputed motivation for the measure, with the consensus being the streets in the neighborhoods around the downtown are probably the most overdue for attention. Where main debate centered was how much was enough to adequately address the issue.
Councilmember Debbie McKillop supported the heftiest amount – 1 percent – that would generate $4.2 million annually and go farther to address the long overdue problems.
“This is not the panacea,’’ said DeLaney in response. “We are stopping the bleeding.’’
Currently, Martinez ranks second worst in the county in the Pavement Condition Index. Only Orinda, which City Engineer Tim Tucker believed had passed a tax to address its road needs, is worse.
“We are headed to No. 1 if we don’t do anything,’’ said Councilmember Mark Ross in backing the ballot measure.
The City’s current sales and use tax rate is 8.5 percent, which consists of the statewide tax rate of 7.5 percent, and the aforementioned Contra Costa Transportation Authority district tax of 0.5 percent and BART district tax of 0.5 percent. The City receives 1 percent of the 7.5 percent statewide rate.
The remaining 6.5 percent goes to the State’s General Fund and other specific purposes (i.e. public safety, education, health and social services).
Of the total current sales tax, the portion to the State is scheduled to decrease by 0.25 percent after Dec. 31, 2016, due to the sunset of Proposition 30’s statewide sales tax rate which supports school districts, county offices of education and community college districts. So half of the city’s proposed .50 percent tax would replace that portion and stay local for this concern.
The cost to put the measure on the November ballot is up to $10,000 as well as approximately $5,000 charged by the State Board of Equalization. Council will take action to cover those costs at its Aug. 3 meeting.