REDWOOD CITY, Calif. – The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors today approved placing a measure on the November ballot that asks voters to increase the sales tax by a half-cent to fund vital services for 10 years.
If the measure is approved by voters, San Mateo County would receive approximately $60 million annually in additional revenue for general County purposes. The measure needs a simple majority to pass.
The measure was proposed by Board President Adrienne J. Tissier and Supervisor Don Horsley and was supported by Supervisor Carole Groom and Supervisor Rose Jacobs Gibson. Supervisor Dave Pine dissented, instead proposing the Board consider a quarter-cent sales tax.
“We have a tremendous quality of life in San Mateo County due in large part to the services our County government provides,” Tissier said. “We have taken huge steps to reduce our budget but we continue to face cutbacks from the state and federal governments that are truly eroding our programs and services. It’s really a local control issue. This measure would provide us with local revenue that we can use for local services.”
As approved by the Board, the measure on the November 6 ballot will read as follows:
To ensure San Mateo County quality of life by retaining critical facilities/services, such as:
• child abuse prevention
• 911 dispatch
• fire prevention
• after-school, library reading/homework programs
• keeping parks open
• maintaining seismically safe hospital/emergency rooms which may include substantial funding to replace Seton Hospital/emergency room for low-income children/seniors/disabled
• and other County services
Shall San Mateo County levy a half-cent sales tax, for ten years, which the State cannot take away, with oversight/independent audits?
“Over the past four years, the County has cut more than $70 million in operating costs and eliminated more than 700 positions, resulting in such impacts as reduced hours at health clinics and fewer services for children and adults,” Horsley said.
Employees are paying a larger share of salaries toward health and retirement benefits, new lower-cost retirement plans have been negotiated for new employees and most employees have not received salary increases since 2008.
“We have done all that we can legally do” to reduce benefit costs, Horsley said. “Now the community has an important decision to make: Are we going to continue to see the erosion of our parks and roads, longer wait times to see a doctor in our network of clinics and cutbacks in services to children or are we going to take a bold step to protect our community’s health and safety?”
The ballot measure proposes a general tax and the Board of Supervisors would retain complete discretion regarding the use of the proceeds of the tax. The measure does list some examples of possible uses of the general tax revenues, including the possibility that the Board might choose to use a portion of the revenues to assist hospitals in the County to remain open and available to County residents, including by potentially assisting Seton Medical Center in Daly City to ensure the seismic safety of its facilities.
If approved by voters, the measure would increase the sales tax in San Mateo County to 8.75 percent from 8.25 percent except in the City of San Mateo. The City of San Mateo’s sales tax would rise to 9 percent from the current rate of 8.5 percent due to a voter-approved measure.
Supervisors said they struggled with going to the voters. But the need for vital public safety and health and social services is great, they said.
“This is the single most difficult issue and vote I have taken in my elected career,” Groom said. She said that residents need “to look deep into their hearts” and see that many of their fellow residents are struggling.
Jacobs Gibson said voter approval of the tax measure “will ensure the quality of services” that the County provides.
The report recommending the tax and supporting documents can be found on the Board’s July 24 agenda.
San Mateo County provides a diverse array of services through its 20 departments. These services include: disease prevention, restaurant health inspections, drug and alcohol treatment, housing for children and families, emergency services such as 9-1-1 dispatch, law enforcement/jail operations and fire prevention and emergency preparedness.
More information about the County government can be found at www.smcgov.org.