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Council OKs Sending Sales Tax To Voters
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A half-cent sales tax will be on the March, 2020 ballot in Escalon.

City council members on Monday night, Dec. 2, agreed to put the special tax on the ballot, with the vote 4-1 in favor of going to the voters in March. If approved by voters, the tax collected will be earmarked specifically for police purposes.

Councilman Ed Alves cast the lone dissenting vote – not in opposition to the measure itself, but indicating he would rather see the measure on next November’s ballot instead of in March.

Councilman Peter Krumeich made the motion to put the tax measure on the ballot, with councilman Walt Murken offering the second. There was a change in the wording approved by the council, however, replacing the initial words “may be” in the measure to “shall be”.

As it will appear on the ballot, the initiative reads: “Shall a measure be adopted enacting a one-half cent (1/2%) special transactions and use (sales) tax for ten (10) years, generating approximately $280,000 annually in dedicated revenue that shall be used solely for the Escalon Police Department for maintaining and enhancing staffing levels, as well as funding police training, capital, equipment and operating budget?”

Mayor Robert Swift brought the idea of a special sales tax to the council a few months ago.

“It will need a two-thirds vote to pass,” Swift said of changing the wording from “may be” to “shall be” – with the change requiring more than just the 50 percent plus one vote if the money was not dedicated to a specific purpose.

“I’d rather have an overwhelming majority pass this,” the mayor said, noting that collecting the sales tax will include even those making purchases while just passing through the community in the raising of funds for the local police department.

The measure will be on the March 3, 2020 ballot.

Swift added that there is a 10-year sunset clause and pointed to the successful enactment of a similar tax in neighboring Oakdale that has helped that community maintain police staffing levels over the past several years. Voters there recently approved an extension of the measure.

City Manager Tammy Alcantor added that a main goal in earmarking the money for EPD is so staffing levels for the department and the level of service to the community isn’t adversely impacted if the city budget sees unexpected revenue shortfalls. The dedicated tax would bring money in for the department outside of the city spending plan.

Alcantor added that once all the paperwork is completed and the measure is on the ballot – and if it passes by the required majority – the city would anticipate starting collection of the new tax on July 1, 2020.

“Outreach is what we need to do now,” Swift said, as the council will look to gear up for the informational campaign in hopes of stirring up support for the measure. “Now we formulate the game plan.”