MARTINEZ, Calif. – Martinez City Council will meet Monday to consider putting a half-cent sales tax measure on the Nov. 6 ballot.
“The city of Martinez has been fiscally prudent in spending, and has made responsible expenditure adjustments in response to significant reductions in revenues from prior state takeaways – in excess fo $24 million – and other economic factors,” City Manager Brad Kilger and Assistant City Manager Anne Cardwell wrote in their joint report on the topic.
But cost-saving measures included reducing the city’s workforce and its salary and benefits, and many positions are compensated in levels that fall into the lower third of neighboring Contra Costa County cities, they wrote.
While those approaches saved money, the city is unable to underwrite the staff it needs to maintain effective emergency response times, recruiting and keeping experienced police officers, protecting and maintaining open space and parks and provide essential city services, especially to younger and older residents, they wrote.
At both its April 4 meeting and June 20 midcycle budget review, the Council said Martinez needs a way to pay for critical-resource needs, the pair wrote, and asked its staff to research locally-controlled approaches.
At its June 27 special meeting, the Council heardFM3 Research’s report on its survey of whether residents would support either a general sales tax increase or one tied to specific uses of the revenue.
While both approaches received support from those asked, the survey indicated that a general purpose local funding measure would be supported by up to 60 percent of those asked. A general purpose sales tax needs only a simple majority to pass; those raising money for specific purposes need to pass by a two-thirds majority.
Kilger and Cardwell said the proposed general purpose local funding measure would maintain essential police services, underwrite school safety, prevent storm drain pollution and provide programs for youth and older residents services.
Getting the measure on the ballot is expected to cost $65,000, which Kilger and Cardwell said would come from the General Fund’s unassigned fund balance.
If the half-cent sales tax is approved by voters, it would raise approximately $3.2 million annually and expire in 15 years. The ballot measure also requires citizens’ oversight and annual audits of the revenue, and that money could be spent only in the city of Martinez, they wrote.
Besides voting whether to pub the half-cent tax on the ballot, the Council will vote on resolutions that would underwrite the money needed to put the measure on the ballot and list spending priorities for the measure’s revenues.
Under public safety, the list has maintaining swift 9-1-1 emergency response times, recruiting and retaining experienced police officers for the city’s neighborhood policing program, preventing and investigating violent crimes and those related to drugs and alcohol, providing safe routes to schools, crossing guards and school resource officers, and addressing homelessness in partnership with Contra Costa County, neighboring cities and nonprofit service providers.
Under city infrastructure, some revenue would be used to maintain storm drains to prevent flooding and prevent pollution of Alhambra Creek and other waterways.
Under parks, open space and recreation, some of the tax money would be used to provide safe outdoor places for community gatherings and play, to maintain the Senior Center’s Respite and Senior Nutrition programs as well as others; and to maintain youth and recreational opportunities, including pool services, youth camps and classes.
The Council will meet at 6 p.m. in a closed session to discuss an existing lawsuit involving Kerry Kilmer, Tim Platt, Mark Thomson and up to 25 others, and to continue negotiations for Alhambra Highlands, property being sought for open space protection.
The special meeting will start at 7 p.m. Monday in the Council Chamber of Martinez City Hall, 525 Henrietta St.