Santa Clara County asks voters to increase sales tax

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors passed the second and final reading of an ordinance at their meeting Tuesday that asks voters to increase sales tax by one-eighth cent in November. It would increase the local tax rate from 8.375 percent to 8.5 percent. The board voted 4-0, with Supervisor Mike Wasserman absent.

Previously, Wasserman voted against the sales tax measure.

If the measure is approved by voters, revenues collected from the proposed one-eighth cent general purpose sales tax could be an estimated $500 million over 10 years. The sales tax would go into effect April 1, 2013, and sunset in 10 years. 

“The county has taken a hard look at the future and how to fund critical services for our community, such as trauma and emergency services,” said board President George Shirakawa.

“With a questionable outlook for state and federal government funding, and after 10 consecutive years of substantial budget reductions to services and programs, we need to look at other revenue sources for the benefit of the community.”

The measure will be placed on the Nov. 6 ballot, and if approved along with a measure from the Santa Clara Valley Water district. The $54-per parcel tax, known as the Safe Clean Water and Natural Flood Protection Plan, seeks to extend the special parcel tax established in 2000 that would otherwise expire in 2016 for another 15 years.

As for the county’s sales tax increase, the funds raised would go to:

• Trauma and emergency services, including the Burn Center, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and a level I Trauma Center at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.

• Preventive health programs including prenatal care, pediatric care, obesity prevention, and diabetes care.

• Public safety services including fire and Sheriff.

• Economic development programs to support job creation in Santa Clara Valley.

• Disease prevention programs to stop the spread of tuberculosis, syphilis, HIV and other diseases.

• Housing for homeless children and families.

• Dental care, mental health, and drug and alcohol treatment.

• Emergency preparedness.

Despite a decade of budget reductions and declining state and federal revenues, Santa Clara County has worked to provide a healthy quality of life for residents, including underserved communities who are especially vulnerable during difficult economic times.

“Some sectors of the economy are rebounding, but there is still a lot of uncertainty about local impacts as well as those resulting from state and federal government funding issues,” said County Executive Jeffrey V. Smith. “We have taken action and made the hard decisions needed to reduce costs. We wouldn’t be asking residents to consider a one-eighth cent sales tax if we had other choices.”

Last year, county employees and labor unions gave up wages, salaries, and benefits valued at $75 million in ongoing savings.

 

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