Tuesday, November 4, 2014

4TH UPDATE: Tax Measures

Posted By on Tue, Nov 4, 2014 at 8:41 PM

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4TH UPDATE:
Here's the final Election Night Report, with no changes. All local tax measures have passed, with the notable exception of the 1-percent proposed sales tax increase in Fortuna, which voters rejected decisively.

Final report (results shown in percentages)

Measure Q (Eureka) - 65.79 for, 34.12 against
5,586 votes cast, 100 percent of precincts reporting

Measure T (Blue Lake) - 53.61 for, 46.39 against
319 votes cast, 100 percent of precincts reporting

Measure U (Rio Dell) - 53.19 for, 46.81 against
564 votes cast, 100 percent of precincts reporting

Measure V (Fortuna) - 36.51 for, 63.49 against
2,490 votes cast, 100 percent of precincts reporting

Measure Z (Humboldt County) - 55.41 for, 44.59 against
28,555 votes cast, 100 percent of precincts reporting

3rd UPDATE:
With more than 85 percent of county precincts reporting, the results on local tax measures are all holding steady with one notable exception: Blue Lake's Measure T.

Trailing as of the third report, the measure has swung in the other direction, and now the 4-percent utility users tax seems poised to psas, drawing 53.61 percent of the vote.

We'll keep you updated through the final report tonight.

Fourth report (results shown in percentages)

Measure Q (Eureka) - 65.79 for, 34.12 against
5,586 votes cast, 87.85 percent of precincts reporting

Measure T (Blue Lake) - 53.61 for, 46.39 against
319 votes cast, 87.85 percent of precincts reporting

Measure U (Rio Dell) - 53.19 for, 46.81 against
564 votes cast, 87.85 percent of precincts reporting

Measure V (Fortuna) - 36.51 for, 63.49 against
2,490 votes cast, 87.85 percent of precincts reporting

Measure Z (Humboldt County) - 55.10 for, 44.90 against
26,115 votes cast, 87.85 percent of precincts reporting

2nd UPDATE:
With more than 65 percent of precincts reporting, little has changed on the local tax measure front. Measures for Eureka, Humboldt County and Rio Dell all hold solid leads, while those for Fortuna and Blue Lake are trailing.

But there are still a lot of votes to be counted from precincts outside Eureka, so pretty much all the results could swing, with the exception of Q, which seems poised to pass handily.

Check out the third return tax measure results below:

Third return (results shown in percentages)

Measure Q (Eureka) - 65.79 for, 34.12 against
5,586 votes cast, 64.49 percent of precincts reporting

Measure T (Blue Lake) - 46.28 for, 53.72 against
121 votes cast, 64.49 percent of precincts reporting

Measure U (Rio Dell) - 53.19 for, 46.81 against
564 votes cast, 64.49 percent of precincts reporting

Measure V (Fortuna) - 36.51 for, 63.49 against
2,490 votes cast, 64.49 percent of precincts reporting

Measure Z (Humboldt County) - 54.70 for, 45.30 against
21,732 votes cast, 64.49 percent of precincts reporting

UPDATE:
With the second returns posted by the Humboldt County Elections Office, things are looking promising for supporters of tax increases in Eureka and Humboldt County.

Measure Z, a proposed countywide .5-percent sales tax, has built on an early lead with the first round of precinct results. Meanwhile, Measure Q, a proposed extension of Eureka's .5-percent transaction and use tax, has also built on an early lead and now has is rolling with 65.88 percent of the vote. Things will have to change drastically for Measure Q to get voted down.

Check out all tax measure results below, though only Q and Z have changed since the first report.

Second return (results shown in percentages)

Measure Q (Eureka) - 65.88 for, 34.12 against
4,997 votes cast, 15.89 percent of precincts reporting

Measure T (Blue Lake) - 46.28 for, 53.72 against
121 votes cast, 15.89 percent of precincts reporting

Measure U (Rio Dell) - 55.74 for, 44.26 against
296 votes cast, 15.89 percent of precincts reporting

Measure V (Fortuna) - 37.85 for, 62.15 against
1,403 votes cast, 15.89 percent of precincts reporting

Measure Z (Humboldt County) - 55.62 for, 44.38 against
17,646 votes cast, 15.89 percent of precincts reporting


PREVIOUSLY:
With the first returns in, the results are mixed for the variety of local tax measures on Humboldt County ballots.

The county's proposed sales tax increase jumped out to an early lead, taking 55 percent of the early votes. Rio Dell's sales tax increase, and Eureka's transaction and use tax continuation measure, are also up early. Fortuna's 1-percent sales tax hike is struggling, however, taking just 37.85 percent of the early vote.

Throughout Humboldt County, local governments are feeling the budget blues, leading five to approach voters today hat in hand. While the facts on the ground vary from municipality to municipality, officials cite the same general culprits: the rising costs of pensions, healthcare, insurance and general goods and services; stagnant revenue streams and those pesky money grabs from the state. Those opposing the measures also touch on similar notes, alleging governments haven’t done enough belt tightening, coddle employees and spend public money on frivolities.

For a more in-depth look at the issue, read past Journal coverage here, and for an at-a-glance breakdown of each measure, scroll below for the results.

First return (results shown in percentages)

Measure Q (Eureka) - 64.41 for, 35.59 against
2,624 votes cast, 0 percent of precincts reporting

Measure T (Blue Lake) - 46.28 for, 53.72 against
121 votes cast, 0 percent of precincts reporting

Measure U (Rio Dell) - 55.74 for, 44.26 against
296 votes cast, 0 percent of precincts reporting

Measure V (Fortuna) - 37.85 for, 62.15 against
1,403 votes cast, 0 percent of precincts reporting

Measure Z (Humboldt County) - 55.08 for, 44.92 against
14,084 votes cast, 0 percent of precincts reporting

Humboldt County's Measure Z
What's being proposed? A .5-percent sales tax that would be implemented countywide and sunset in 2020.

Why?
The county faced a $2.7 million deficit in its 2014-2015 budget, including a $1.2 million structural deficit, meaning ongoing expenses are far outpacing ongoing revenue projections.

What if it passes?
The tax is projected to bring in an additional $6 million in revenue to the county general fund to help pay for services. If passed, residents in the county's unincorporated areas would see sales tax rates climb to 8 percent. Residents of local cities would see the .5-percent sales tax increase on top of the state's 7.5-percent levy and any sales tax imposed by their city.

What if it doesn't pass?
The board of supervisors would be left to balance a $1.2 million structural deficit by cutting spending, and would likely be hard-pressed to find funds to increase sheriff's office coverage and patrols, tackle a backlog of deferred road maintenance or increase county services in any way.

Blue Lake's Measure T
What's being proposed? A 4-percent utility users tax that would be levied on all gas and electricity usage within city limits and would sunset in 2020. The measure includes an exemption for enrollees in Pacific Gas & Electric Co.'s CARE program, which offers subsidized rates for low-income customers.

Why?
Facing ongoing annual expenses that are projected to outpace revenues by $57,000 a year, the city council says it has no other options to raise revenue.

What if it passes?
The tax is projected to bring in about $38,000 annually, which would still leave the city spending $19,000 a year from its reserves to bring its budget into balance at current service levels.

What if it doesn't pass?
The city council will be left facing a $57,000 structural deficit and will consider cuts to law enforcement, parks and recreation, street maintenance and facilities upkeep services in order to bring the budget into balance.

Eureka's Measure Q
What's being proposed? An extension of the city's current .5-percent transaction and use tax. The current tax is slated to sunset in 2016 and the extension would extend that to 2021.

Why?
Even with the roughly $4 million generated by the temporary tax, Eureka still faced a projected budget deficit when crafting its 2014-2015 budget, causing staff to recommend across-the-board 10-percent cuts to all city departments. In adopting its budget, the council allocated $200,000 from its already-depleted $1.2 million reserves to maintain police services.

What if it passes?
The city will continue to receive the $4 million or so in projected annual revenue and consumers will continue to pay an 8.25-percent combined state and city sales tax within city limits. If the county's sales tax also passes in November, folks shopping in Eureka would see their combined sales tax rate increase to 8.75 percent.

What if it doesn't pass?
Large cuts would likely be in order across all departments as the city would lose $4 million of its $30 million general fund revenue, a reduction of more than 13 percent.

Fortuna's Measure V
What's being proposed? A 1-percent sales tax to be implemented within city limits. The measure does not include a sunset date, but gives the Fortuna City Council the authority to end the tax at any time.

Why?
The city faced a projected deficit of about $750,000 when crafting its 2014-2015 budget, which followed deficits of about $500,000 in each of the prior two fiscal years. Since the 2010-2011 fiscal year, the city has spent about $6 million from its reserve funds to bring budgets into balance, a practice that is not sustainable.

What if it passes?
The measure is projected to bring in about $1.2 million annually, which would allow the city to bridge its structural deficit and maintain current levels of city services. Consumers in the city would see their combined state and city sales tax rate jump to 8.5 percent. If the county tax measure passes as well, Fortuna shoppers would face a sales tax rate of 9 percent.

What if it doesn't pass?
The city council would be left facing a structural deficit of more than $500,000 and would have to reduce staff and services or continue depleting the city's reserve funds to balance its budget.

Rio Dell's Measure U

What's being proposed? A 1-percent sales tax to be implemented within city limits until 2020.

Why?
Facing a deficit, the Rio Dell City Council spent $140,000 in reserve funds to balance its 2014-2015 budget and faces ongoing expenses that outpace revenue projections by $100,000 annually. This is after the council has cut city staff by 30 percent in recent years to reduce ongoing expenses.

What if it passes?
The city is projecting the tax will bring in about $173,000 in annual revenues, enough to bridge the structural deficit, rebuild the city's reserves and possibly allow the city to reinvest in its police and public works departments. Consumers in Rio Dell would see their combined state and sales tax rates increase to 8.5 percent. If the county tax measure passes as well, Rio Dell shoppers would face a sales tax rate of 9 percent.

What if it doesn't pass?
The city council would be left to find another way to bridge its $100,000 structural deficit, which would likely include either more cuts to services or a further depletion of the city's reserve funds.
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Thadeus Greenson

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Thadeus Greenson is the news editor of the North Coast Journal.

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