Measure E would extend, expand Grass Valley sales tax | TheUnion.com

Measure E would extend, expand Grass Valley sales tax

Grass Valley is betting the programs and improvements funded by a 2012 sales tax measure have been popular enough with voters they will approve an extension and expansion.

Measure E would repeal the existing half-percent sales tax instituted by Measure N and replace it with an ongoing 1 percent sales tax that would raise approximately $5.4 million annually. Measure N is set to expire in 2022 if voters don't approve Measure E.

The money from the Measure E tax would go into the city's general fund and could be used for any lawful city purpose, including but not limited to police officers and firefighters, police and fire equipment, street paving, sidewalk repair, park improvements and recreation services.

The tax would be in addition to existing state and local sales taxes and would be collected along with them. It would only apply to purchases of things subject to existing sales taxes. For example, purchases of prescription drugs and most food would not be taxed.

The tax has no expiration date, but voters could reduce or repeal it at any election. A Citizen's Oversight Board will review an independent audit of tax receipts and how they are spent each year and advise the City Council on how tax money should be spent. The council must discuss the audit results at a public meeting each year and post them on the city's website.

Grass Valley has used Measure N funds to purchase two new police vehicles, wi-fi modules for patrol cars, and new Litton radio antennas, as well as for officer salaries and benefits.

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Measure E proponents say voting yes will provide additional police and fire personnel and resources, as well as badly needed parks and recreation improvements and street rehabilitation.

Terry Lamphier, a former Grass Valley planning commissioner and Nevada County supervisor, penned the argument against Measure E on the ballot.

"Measure E wants to fix problems that don't exist," he wrote, arguing crime in the county is static or dropping.

"The point of taxes is to address problems, not create new ones," Lamphier continued. "Measure E's emphasis on hiring more public safety officers would create permanent pension (debt) obligations and increase court and jail systems costs, reducing the available amount of money that could be used instead for streets and parks."

Instead, Lamphier argues, existing tax money should be used to fund substance abuse, mental illness and homeless programs. Grass Valley should also look to consolidate its fire agency with other districts, he said.

Lamphier charged that the citizen oversight committee and its role has not been formally defined and historically has never reported to the voters. That contention was disputed by measure supporters, who wrote in rebuttal that the oversight committee has met at least three times a year.

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lizk@theunion.com.