San Juan Bautista
– Mission City voters in November will have a chance to weigh in
on a potential sales tax hike and loosened growth restrictions.
San Juan Bautista – Mission City voters in November will have a chance to weigh in on a potential sales tax hike and loosened growth restrictions.
The San Juan Bautista City Council voted Tuesday to hold a special election Nov. 6. The election will allow residents to vote on a proposal to increase the town’s sales tax from 8 percent to 8.5 percent and another that would raise the city growth cap from 1 percent to 3 percent.
The decision came a little more than a day after the Hollister City Council voted to call its own November election for a similar tax hike.
San Juan City Manager Jan McClintock said the tax increase should lend needed aid to the city’s failing finances. The growth ordinance must change to make San Juan Bautista eligible for state and federal funds, she said.
By calling the election, the City Council declared an emergency – namely, the Mission City’s financial crisis – which cannot wait until the next regular election.
McClintock has said businesses are suffering because of a decline in tourism, which means less sales tax revenue for the city.
“If we don’t spend any money, and we don’t do any building or street repair … we’ll be able to balance the budget,” McClintock said Wednesday.
But if the council wants to continue any kind of maintenance or repairs, the city would be looking at a $30,000 or $40,000 annual deficit that would eat its $150,000 reserve fund by the end of fiscal year 2009-10.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Councilman Ed Laverone noted how San Juan Bautista’s economy had been dealt another blow with the recent closure of its Union 76 gas station.
Another local store, the Windmill Market, won’t be affected by the tax increase, co-owner Jim Gibson said, because most items sold in a grocery store aren’t subject to the sales tax. But Gibson, a Hollister resident, argued that a tax hike won’t solve the city’s problems.
“What they need to do is figure out how to get more visitors,” Gibson said.
McClintock also said San Juan Bautista needs a revised growth ordinance to bring the Mission City in line with state housing requirements. A 1 percent cap makes it impossible for San Juan Bautista to satisfy California’s demand for affordable housing, she said.
The revised ordinance would allow construction of 21 units per year, rather than seven, McClintock said.
State agencies are funding most of the election to help San Juan Bautista get into compliance with state law.
If the city doesn’t loosen its rules, it wouldn’t have a legal general plan, opening up San Juan Bautista to litigation and closing off funding opportunities, McClintock said.
Councilman George Dias said he supports both measures, but he thinks the revised growth ordinance is more important. Dias emphasized that units allocated to a developer one year cannot be “rolled over” for construction in the future.
“Those numbers do not roll over,” he said. “If they rolled over, even I would have thought twice.”