Chula Vista’s Half-Cent Tax: Going About the Problem the Wrong Way

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This November, the city of Chula Vista will be putting a measure on the ballot to impose an additional half-cent sales tax for ten years. With a 4-1 vote (Councilmember John McCann voted in opposition), the measure will head to the ballot:

Tax increase headed for November vote

The reason for this is simple – the city has fallen woefully behind on its infrastructure upkeep (to the tune of over half a billion dollars). That means that roads are falling apart, fire and police stations are behind schedule in getting remodeled, and critical systems are in dire need of repair. The city hopes to gather an additional $15 million a year from the new tax, but more importantly, to use the future tax as collateral to float a city bond for larger projects.

Imposing this new tax will merely add a bandaid to a fiscal hemorrhage. While this additional money would help a little, it’s the wrong approach to an ongoing endemic problem. The real problem is the huge imbalance in costs and revenue. First, the costs: about sixty percent of the city’s budget goes to fire and safety. The rest of the money must be divided by the rest of the city needs including park maintenance, road repair, graffiti removal, city lights, libraries, sewers, etc.

As for the revenues, for the last twenty years, the city has done a horrible job of creating new revenue in the way of adding businesses in either retail, commercial or industrial. This is partly because the city has been giving out land for housing development like if it was candy. It’s almost as if the city was addicted to residential housing. In fact, City Hall has made things worse by continuously converting land that is zoned for commercial and industrial land to residential zoning. The problem is that, in the longterm, housing adds costs and doesn’t bring in new revenue like businesses do.

For the next few months, we will be hearing about the critical infrastructure needs. The ugly picture that is painted will be very real. This will be paid and coordinated by those people who will benefit from additional revenues. What you won’t hear is what is Plan B? What will we do if the measure fails? City Hall seems confident that the measure will pass basing that confidence on a poll conducted by their consultants last year. That confidence may be misplaced. The last time that the city placed a tax measure in 2009, consultants told the then-Council that their polling showed 69% passage. Well, the consultants were right about the 69% number but in the exact opposite way. The measure (Proposition A) was defeated by about 69% of the people voting.

Taxing our way out of a fiscal problem is the wrong way to go about it. That giant crevice will just keep getting bigger and throwing some dirt on top won’t really help. Instead, the city needs to take a hard look at how it generates money and start creating additional revenues that are sustainable rather than use stop-gap measures that won’t help the real problem.

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11 Responses to Chula Vista’s Half-Cent Tax: Going About the Problem the Wrong Way

  1. Robert Ross says:

    Are you saying that people should vote against the sales tax increase?

  2. We should be asking our representatives to come up with better solutions.

  3. RussH. says:

    I don’t know where to start on this folly. CV does not have a revenue problem. CV has a SPENDING PROBLEM. This is not the fault of the taxpayer rather the fault of city politicians/mayors/councils that too frequently listened to the entrenched executive level civil servants (earning gold plated salaries and gold plated CalPERS benefits) in orchestrating monetary shell games. Now the bills are coming due and the city can’t even accurately define what that bill should be. Frankly, they don’t know accurately how much money they need because the city has yet to account for how fast the aging infrastructures in the eastern sections will soon need upkeep as well. So the bill now is somewhere around 500 million. What does that buy and when? Will it get us up-to-date and for how long before they have to come begging again? And what commitment do we get that future councils won’t divert this money to other yet to be known
    civic follies?

    The city always seems to find money to spend when they need it and want it. A few examples: countless millions spent on outside consultants for the university project that still after 20 years has yet to get a sniff of interest; $300,000 a year in operating fees loaned to the Olympic Training Center operator with no guarantee of repayment; $50.000 a year for outside legal counsel to advise the city of the OTC operations; $100 million or so on the reconstruction of the civic center and police facility in which money that supposed to go to a library ended up diverted to that project; over $150,000 in outside legal counsel fees to defend the illegal occupation of the Steve Miesen council seat; Millions spent on police and fire gold plated salaries and retirements that this city never could afford yet opted to do so anyway. And neither the Mayor or Council has the guts or courage to reform a city pension system that is clearly unsustainable given the lack city economics from a underperforming and completely stalled economy.

    My friends, the incompetence and corruption that exists in your city is beyond disgusting. Vote no and pray for lawsuits. This stinks big time.

  4. Good points, Russ. Let’s also not forget the payments we’re still making on the “new” City Hall and Police Station.

  5. Rudy Ramirez says:

    The issue of fiscal sustainability is laid out perfectly in this article. What’s frustrating is that there is a technical fix. What the city needs is the collective political will and you’ll only get this from strong leadership. Mayor Salas is on the hook for this. Let’s see if she can deliver more to Chula Vista residents than simply a new tax.

  6. RussH. says:

    Rudy, its not just the Mayor. She is only one vote. Aguilar, Bensoussan and Miesen just enabled her and the fuzzy headed executive civil servants on a 4-1 vote in favor of this corrupt non-sense.

    Not one current council member nor any of you candidates have talked about serious pension reform. Why? Because all of you are beholding to police and fire endorsements along with their campaign money. We can follow the money quite well.

    And finally, no current council member, Mayor or candidate has shed an earthly clue on a specific plan of intense and meaningful economic development other than wishful thinking. Nuts and bolts economic development takes knowledge, commitment and courage. We don’t have that in Chula Vista. We instead celebrate the arrival of the tenth Ninety-nine Cent junk store that makes our friends in China rich. Couple that with our cottage industry of thrift stores, used car lots, broken down single wide mobile home lots, payday loan shops, and a mecca of fast food joints and an array of food trucks. There you have western Chula Vista. Do you like what you see?

    And I haven’t even started on the junk on Third Ave. yet. You know where to find me Rudy. I’ll be more than happy to outline a real plan of action.

  7. Pingback: North of the Fence: South Bay Guide to California Primaries - South Bay Compass

  8. Pingback: Chula Vista's Sales Tax Increase: It Actually Might be a Good Idea

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