– City employees and residents are planning to bring another
sales tax increase before Hollister voters in November.
Hollister – City employees and residents are planning to bring another sales tax increase before Hollister voters in November.
Local residents in November 2006 rejected Measure R – a proposed sales tax hike of 1 percent – but supporters said they’ll have more success the second time around.
“I’m committed as ever to getting that measure approved,” local architect David Huboi said.
Measure R was defeated 52 percent to 48 percent.
During the election, some locals criticized the Hollister City Council for using proposed service cuts to intimidate local voters into supporting the cuts. Huboi, who chaired the “Yes-on-R” campaign and serves on the Hollister Planning Commission, said he’ll try a different tack this year.
“Instead of saying what might happen if the effort fails, I’m going to talk about what are the great things we can achieve with the community if the measure passes,” he said.
City Manager Clint Quilter said the council will consider placing a new tax measure on the ballot at its June 18 or July 2 meeting. Council members voted unanimously to place Measure R on the ballot in 2006 to address the city’s budget deficit.
After the measure’s defeat, the council approved $1.2 million in annual cuts, including the elimination of 12 full-time positions, service cuts in nearly every department and increased fees for youth sports and other recreation department programs.
Quilter’s deficit reduction plan calls for a second round of cuts – totaling more than $750,000 per year – to take effect in fiscal year 2008-09.
But if voters approve the tax hike, the recent cuts would be scaled back, with the second round averted, Quilter said.
San Benito resident John Rinck doesn’t live in Hollister, so he won’t be able to vote on the measure. But Rinck said he would gladly pay an increased sales tax if it improves public safety.
He added that a tax hike might pass muster with voters this year if Police Chief Jeff Miller and others offer concrete details on how it would make citizens safer.
“Tell us what we’re going to get for our money,” he said.
A group of tax-hike supporters already held one meeting and are planning to gather each week, said Carol Lenoir, who works for the city’s planning department.
Despite the measure’s defeat, Huboi and Lenoir said they believe the percentage of “yes” votes will improve in November because public awareness of the budget situation continues to grow.
“I’ve worked for the city for 20 years, and it’s never been this bad,” Lenoir said.
Huboi said the “Yes-on-R” committee consisted almost entirely of city employees who used personal time to campaign. But this year, he wants to see other voters get more involved.
“I’d like to see people start expressing their interest or participating and volunteering before the vote,” he said. “Measure R is a very integral part of a better community.”
Mayor Brad Pike supports the increase, he said, particularly since the police and fire departments were hit the hardest by cuts.
“Anything that will enhance public safety, I will push for, plead for, beg for,” Pike said.