I attended the Grass Valley City Council meeting Oct. 9, and there was a packed house. Police Chief John Foster presented his department’s fiscal year 2012-13 first quarter report/action plan dealing with the homeless problem in Grass Valley, which has gotten progressively worse in the city and county since the housing crisis hit in 2008.
As a land owner with properties in the city and county, the Idaho Maryland Mining Corporation has been forced to deal with the issue and cost of homeless camps for several years now. However, all taxpayers in the city and county end up having to pay for the direct and indirect costs of dealing with the growing social, political, and health problems related to homelessness. It affects the entire community.
I was pleased to see the city trying to deal with the homeless issue proactively and create a network of public, private, and special interest groups (stakeholders) to work together to find short and long term solutions to the growing problem.
At the same meeting, I was handed a brochure for Measure N, a ballot initiative to be voted on in the Nov. 6 election in Grass Valley. The brochure shows the police force in Grass Valley has been cut from 31 officers in 2007 to below 20 officers today, firefighter staffing is below safe and effective levels, city revenues have declined by about $2 million per year since 2007 to today, and our roads are deteriorating due to lack of capital funds.
Measure N proposes an increase in the local city/county sales tax of 0.5 percent, raising it from 1.0 percent to 1.5 percent. This increases the combined state and local sales tax from 7.375 percent to 7.875 percent. The increased tax would be for a 10-year period and provide much needed funding for police services, fire services, and street repair. Measure N was brought up many times during the public comment discussion on the homeless issue, as police understaffing now limits their ability to respond to incidents and protect the public.
Measure N would generate $25.1 million in additional revenue for the general fund over a 10-year period, averaging $2.5 million per year. A good portion of the sales tax will be paid by people who come from outside of Grass Valley to shop in the city, not by local residents. The Measure N brochure estimates the cost per family to Grass Valley residents will be about $25 to $50 annually. After attending a public meeting put on by the “Committee for Yes on Measure N” on Oct. 11 and researching the issue, I urge voters to support Measure N.
As I see it, there are two main ways for the city to generate revenue. One is to tax the residents and businesses through sales taxes and other fees. The other is to promote and develop existing and new businesses that generate jobs, generate tax revenue, and help pay for infrastructure improvements in the city.
Like many companies trying to bring business and jobs to California, IMMC cannot help but feel frustrated that the need for initiatives like Measure N throughout that state are the direct result of a broken regulatory system on the state level, one that has created over-regulation and over-taxation, killing existing businesses and preventing new ones from developing.
Even Jerry Brown admits the California Environmental Quality Act has failed.
For example, reopening the Idaho-Maryland Mine in Grass Valley will provide about 600 much-needed and high-paying jobs, half of which are expected to be filled by local residents. This would help deal with the high unemployment in the city and county and help with the homeless problem. The draft environmental impact report for the mine completed in late 2008 estimated the net revenue to the city’s general fund created by the mine would be about $750,000 per year, once it reaches full production. If the local sales tax is increased to 0.5 percent, the mine would generate almost $1.1 million net revenue to the city’s general fund at full production.
While the mine alone might not have prevented the need for Measure N, there is no doubt having the mine operating today would provide much needed tax revenue to the city, county, state, and federal governments and provide much needed jobs to the local and regional area.
I urge voters to support Measure N. After the election however, voters need to keep the council accountable to find ways to create jobs and grow revenue for the city — not just keep increasing taxes and fees.
David Watkinson is president and CEO of Emgold Mining Corporation, Emgold U.S. Corporation, Idaho-Maryland Mining Corporation, and Golden Bear Ceramics Company.
The Measure N brochure estimates the cost per family to Grass Valley residents will be about $25 to $50 annually.