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Local Voters Reject City’s Measure S

In a somewhat unexpected turn, the proposed Measure S for Escalon was defeated in the Tuesday, March 3 primary election.

The half-cent sales tax measure was to be earmarked specifically for the Escalon Police Department. Estimates were that it would raise roughly $280,000 annually, and would be provided to the police department in addition to the money already set aside in the city budget for police/public safety services.

But the latest figures available from the San Joaquin County Registrar of Voters office showed that the measure was going down in defeat, as it needed a two-thirds majority vote to pass.

Total ballots counted as of Friday, Mach 6 – the latest reporting of figures – showed Measure S with 588 ‘Yes’ votes and 483 ‘No’ votes – accounting for roughly a 55 to 45 percent vote margin in favor. City Manager Tammy Alcantor said because the measure was for a specific use, it had to be passed by a 66.67 percent vote margin. Even with some votes still to be tallied, officials said there likely won’t be enough to make a difference in the final outcome.

“We expected it to be close,” Alcantor admitted, but said city leaders were a bit surprised that the measure failed. “We had received primarily positive feedback so it is disappointing for sure.”

She noted that many measures put out by cities around the state, including several in the Central Valley region, were being defeated in the primary election, signaling a trend that was echoed in Escalon.

For the Police Department, it will mean having to put off some positions they had hoped to add, such as a dedicated Code Enforcement Officer, a Traffic Officer and being able to pull the detective off a patrol route. Now, said Alcantor, they hope to just maintain the staffing level they have achieved – recently hiring the 12th officer to bring the department up to its full staff – and will work to continue highlighting service to the citizens and officer safety.

“We want to at least maintain where we’re at,” she said. “We’ll just move forward and provide the best possible service.”

Officials were hopeful that the sales tax measure would get the needed votes, as it would have taxed all those purchasing items in the community, including those passing through on the way to the Bay area or Yosemite.

“Sometimes I think people see ‘tax’ and they just say no,” Alcantor admitted.

Going back to the voters in the future for a similar measure is always a possibility, the city manager added, but said that would be up to the council members.

“It is something maybe we can re-visit in a couple of years,” she said.

Meanwhile, the council will have a regular meeting on Monday, March 16 and may have the final vote totals to review at that time.

The council will also have the second reading of a proposed change in the zoning ordinance in regards to microbreweries and wine tasting rooms, which currently are not addressed in the city’s zoning code. The meeting is at 7 p.m. in the council chambers on McHenry Avenue.