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Supervisors squash sales tax ballot measure

Board cites rising prices, financial uncertainties

Citing the impact of across-the-board rising prices and economic uncertainties, the San Benito County Board of Supervisors declined to ask the voters for a 1% sales tax in the November election.

And despite their ongoing search for more local revenues to fund public services, the board voted 5-0 at the June 14 meeting to reject placing a sales tax measure on the ballot. The vote followed more than a year of research and discussions among the supervisors and county staff about the possibility.

Supervisor Bea Gonzales said she was supportive of the idea of a sales ballot measure before the pandemic took its toll, but no longer as more families are facing financial uncertainties to the point that an extra one-cent tax on retail goods could be burdensome.

“Everything has skyrocketed since then,” Gonzales said. “We have people in our community right now who are really struggling… For our county to impose a 1% sales tax when you’re struggling to make ends meet—it’s significant.”

Supervisors Bob Tiffany and Kollin Kosmicki formed an ad hoc committee last year to look into different possibilities to bring in more revenue to fund San Benito County’s public services. One of their top ideas was to put a ballot measure before the voters asking for a 1% transactions and use tax (TUT)—commonly referred to as sales tax.

In July 2021, the board of supervisors directed county staff to draft a TUT measure to submit to elections officials.

When the item came back at the June 14, 2022 meeting, however, the board definitively killed it for at least the next election cycle.

“Times were different when this came up,” Kosmicki said June 14. “Everybody is struggling more than they were about a year ago… It’s probably the worst possible timing. Nobody knows where this economy is going, and we’ve got to be frugal. That’s the same way families across our community are viewing life right now.”

Kosmicki suggested the county may consider a sales tax measure again in 2024 if the economy recovers adequately.

A report by consultant KNN Public Finance, commissioned by the county last year, found that an additional 1% sales tax in San Benito County could generate up to $3.3 million in revenue in the first year.

San Benito County’s current sales tax rate is 8.25%, which includes the Measure G sales tax approved in the November 2018 election.

The county’s general fund currently receives about $3.2 million in sales tax revenue annually from its 1% allocation from the 7.25% levied by the state, according to county staff.

Individual counties, cities and special districts may levy additional sales tax through election measures. The sales tax rates in Hollister and San Juan Bautista are 9.25%.

Supervisors on June 14 still bemoaned the county’s need for more revenues to fund road repairs and other basic services.

“We badly need more revenue,” Tiffany said. “I would hope our constituents will understand we’re going to need to get revenue from somewhere else”—including more commercial development.