Tax measures for Nevada City, Grass Valley residents on June ballot
April 6, 2018
Grass Valley residents will be voting in June on measures that will affect their pocketbooks, while Nevada City is focusing on taxing the cannabis business boom currently underway within city limits.
Grass Valley is floating two different tax measures. One will increase property taxes in an effort to fund school district improvements, while the other increases the half-cent sales tax instituted under Measure N to 1 percent.
Measure D: Grass Valley School District
The Grass Valley School District has been refining a wish list and calculating how much funding is needed for its aging facilities for more than a year.
The district, formed in 1853, lays claim to the oldest school buildings and the oldest continuously operated school site in California; Hennessy School, now the home of Grass Valley Charter School, was built in the 1930s and Bell Hill Academy dates back to the 1950s. No modernization improvements have been done since about 2000, Assistant Superintendent Brian Martinez has said. The last time the Grass Valley School District went out for a bond was 50 years ago.
Before it was pared down, the cost estimate for everything on the district's list stood at $40 million. After the district broke that list down into priorities, the health, safety and preservation needs penciled out to approximately $22 million. The district then refined the list even further, eliminating building projects like new gyms and playgrounds and moving some of the future growth projects to the lowest priority, unfunded list.
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The measure as placed on the June ballot asks voters to approve $18.8 million in bonds at legal interest rates, with projected tax rates of 2.4 cents per $100 of assessed property valuation. The measure requires audits/oversight, with all funds to be spent locally on elementary and middle schools, and no money for administrators' salaries or pensions.
"Schools have leaky roofs, faulty plumbing, worn-out class rooms, old swamp coolers and even lack basics such as a dry place to eat lunch," said Travis Lea, a member of the Grass Valley Yes on Measure D campaign.
Measure E: City of Grass Valley
The city of Grass Valley is looking to extend and expand Measure N, a sales tax passed in 2012.
That measure was a half-cent sales tax intended to fund police, fire and streets over 10 years. Measure N raised the city's sales tax rate to 7.875 percent, a tax hike set to expire in 2022 if voters don't approve an extension.
According to a 2015 article in The Union, Grass Valley's police department spent more than $710,000 in Measure N funds, including the purchase of two new police vehicles, wi-fi modules for patrol cars, and new Litton radio antennas. The bulk of the expenditures, close to $590,000, went to officer salaries and benefits.
Measure E would expand funding for increased police and fire services and improving streets and sidewalks, and adds parks and recreational services as a funding priority, with all funds staying local and all expenditures subject to an annual audit by an independent citizen oversight committee. It would repeal the existing half-percent sales tax and replace it with an ongoing 1 percent sales tax, which will raise approximately $5.4 million annually,
Measure F: City of Nevada City
Nevada City's Measure F will tax cannabis businesses to fund general municipal expenses such as police, fire, streets and recreation. The tax will be applied to all operators in the supply chain, including nurseries, processors, distributors, transporters, manufacturers, testing labs and dispensaries. Cultivation would be taxed, but the city council intends to ban commercial cultivation of mature plants.
The tax is a general tax, meaning there are no specific expenditures. The city can be flexible in how it uses the funds generated — an estimated $120,000 to $135,000 annually — for general municipal services such as police, fire, roads and parks and recreation.
The tax would be in effect through June 30, 2021, and 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 council has indicated it will adopt lower starting tax rates, however, to incentivize compliance and offset startup costs. According to a fact sheet issued by Nevada City, those rates will be at 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.