Measured up?: Early results say yes to school bonds, city sales tax, cannabis tax measures | TheUnion.com

Measured up?: Early results say yes to school bonds, city sales tax, cannabis tax measures

Jennifer Nobles and Liz Kellar
Staff writers

Brian Martinez, Assistant Superintendent of the Grass Valley School District, points to Lyman Gilmore school's gym floor, in a state of disrepair. Funds granted by the passage of Measure D will help the district make much needed repairs to classrooms and structures.

All three measures facing school district, Grass Valley and Nevada City voters appeared to pass Tuesday night.

MEASURE D

Voters who live in the Grass Valley School District appeared to be well on their way to approving an $18.8 million bond that would be used to make improvements to schools within the district with 2,500 yes votes to 1,526 no as of 11 p.m. Tuesday.

"We're feeling great," said assistant superintendent Brian Martinez Tuesday night. "We're super humbled that the community voted to support the Grass Valley School District."

The source of repayment for the general obligation bond is a tax on all taxable property — residential, commercial, agricultural and industrial — within the Grass Valley School District. The projected annual tax rate equates to $24 per $100,000 of taxable property value. Measure D bonds will be paid back over the span of about 30 years.

Measure D supporters argue the funds are desperately needed in order to bring a number of district schools out of a state of disrepair.

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The measure will help fix restrooms and replace outdated buildings and classrooms, including gas lines and plumbing. The funds will be used for projects including the repair of leaky roofs, cracked sidewalks and uneven floors in classrooms and other structures.

Supporters of Measure D faced a number of challenges during the election cycle, mainly in regards to the information that was — or wasn't — disseminated to the public. The measure was erroneously omitted from about 7,000 voter guides, and of the approximately 9,000 guides that did include the measure, four of the five signers for the argument were left out.

"We will continue our commitment to spend the funds as wisely as possible for the benefit of the children," said Martinez.

Measure E

Grass Valley's Measure E, which removes an existing half-percent sales tax instituted by Measure N and replaces it with an ongoing 1 percent sales tax, was looking successful with early results showing a nearly 60 percent yes vote. At 11 p.m. the measure showed 1,119 yes votes out of a total 1,873 votes counted.

"It's early, but it's looking pretty good," said supporter Daniel Swartzendruber. "It's great to see Grass Valley is going in the right direction."

Measure E would raise approximately $5.4 million annually that would go into the city's general fund to 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 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.

Proponents pointed to funding for additional police and fire personnel and resources, as well as badly needed parks and recreation improvements and street rehabilitation.

Opponents disputed the need for additional funds for the city and contended that Measure N had inadequate oversight.

Measure F

There was no opposition for Nevada City's Measure F, which will tax cannabis businesses within city limits. So it came as no surprise that the measure appeared to have passed by a wide margin, with 85.71 percent of 556 votes counted.

The tax is expected to generate approximately $120,000 to $135,000 annually and will fund general municipal expenses such as police, fire, streets and recreation.

The Nevada County Cannabis Alliance worked with Nevada City staff to craft the tax measure language and supported Measure F, calling it fair and reasonably written.

The tax will go into effect July 1 and will be applied to all operators in the supply chain, including nurseries, processors, distributors, transporters, manufacturers, testing labs and dispensaries.

It imposes maximum rates not to exceed $7 per canopy square foot for cultivation (which includes nurseries), 8 percent of gross receipts for retail cannabis businesses such as a dispensary or distribution business, and 6 percent for all other cannabis businesses.

The city will adopt lower starting tax rates to incentivize compliance and offset startup costs — 4 percent for dispensaries, 2 percent for other cannabis operations and 50 cents per canopy square foot for nurseries.

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lizk@theunion.com. Contact staff writer Jennifer Nobles at jnobles@theunion.com or 530-477-4231.