Watsonville will likely place a sales tax increase on the November ballot

WATSONVILLE“The City of Watsonville will likely ask its residents to approve a half-cent sales tax increase in the November election, which would bring the city’s sales tax to 9.75%, the maximum that the municipality is authorized to impose on its inhabitants.

Watsonville City Council has yet to put the article on the ballot. Elected leaders at Tuesday’s meeting only heard a report from Department of Parks and Community Services Director Nick Calubaquib and consultant Jared Boigon, of TBWBH Props & Measures, on the results of an investigation conducted in february.

This study of 486 likely Watsonville voters found that while there is support for a special tax measure that would only benefit the Parks Department, a general sales tax hike, which only requires a simple majority, is more likely to receive voter approval.

Some 68% of respondents expressed support for a general sales tax measure that would bring more money into the city’s general fund, the municipality’s most flexible revenue pool that can be used for most expenses.

Support for a special tax that would only benefit the Parks Department rose to 72.5%, with more than 40% of respondents saying they would “definitely” support the article. A special tax—or one that comes with spending restrictions like Watsonville’s Y measure—requires the agreement of two-thirds of voters.

But support for both a general tax and a special tax dropped several points when the consulting team presented arguments against them, such as escalating inflation.

“Looking at these numbers, it leads us to think that the two-thirds threshold is quite difficult for a measure like this right now,” Boigon said. “But, again, if you focus on simple majority for general fund revenue, you’re very comfortably above the 50% plus one threshold…finding a way to put a viable measure on the ballot , I think it’s important.”

Council will consider whether to bring up the November 8 election update at a future meeting.

The survey was conducted to gauge community interest in providing more money to the Watsonville Parks Department. In addition to having a shortage of park space within city limits, the department also has more than $20 million in deferred maintenance costs on its current 148 acres of park space.

Calubaquib said the need to invest in the city’s parks and recreation programs was a recurring request from community members through many citywide initiatives and outreach efforts.

“But I think what we all know intuitively, with the data we have from many community surveys, is that there are a lot of other priorities that our community has,” Calubaquib said. “Everything from safety and road conditions to housing to prevention programs and the general infrastructure of our facilities as well.”

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