An argument opposing Reedley’s proposed sales tax, Measure B

The cty of Reedley recently distributed a flyer, entitled “Local Sales Tax Measure Fact Sheet” asking voters to support a three-quarters of a cent sales tax increase to offset an approaching financial deficit expected to be over $2 million in the next few years. While a looming deficit is problematic, will continuing to raise the sales tax resolve our budget problems or is it just the “usual” method used to balance a budget instead of digging deeper to identify other business solutions?
The city’s current approved 2019-2020 City budget is $38,552,119. It took a massive 604 pages to detail this budget up from 473 pages in the prior fiscal year. Looks like explaining the budget is ballooning just as rapidly as the budget deficit itself. But, to be clear, this editorial is not intended to take “cheap shots” at our city employees or City Council members. Reedley’s budget problem is everyone’s responsibility. It will “take a village” of citizen, city, and business leaders to get involved. However, increasing sales taxes will not resolve our budget fiasco.
The city of Reedley only nets about 17 cents of each tax dollar. Where does the remaining 83 cents go? Well, approximately 74 cents goes to the state of California and 9 cents goes to Fresno County. The state gobbles up the bulk of our sales tax where it is spent on pet projects like the High Speed Rail and studies on “climate change.”
The city’s current estimated sales tax revenue in the approved 2019-2020 budget is estimated at $1,768,749. Since Measure B funds are not shared with the State and County, the City may realize an additional million dollars or so if the three-quarter of cent sales tax is approved. While that seems like a lot of money, it won’t solve the current or impending budget deficits. It’s just a “Band-Aid.”
The current sales tax rate in Reedley is 8.475 percent. If the sales tax increase is approved, the city’s new sales tax would increase to 9.225 percent. While three-quarters of a cent doesn’t sound like much, it will put Reedley on the map in a bad way. According to the California City and County Sales & Use Tax Rates (effective July 1, 2019), the new 9.225 percent sales tax would have Reedley competing for one of the state’s highest sales tax rates — which is currently held by Los Angeles County at a whopping 9.500 percent. The potential new tax rate of 9.225 percent would give Reedley the highest sales tax in our area and almost in the state among comparable city populations.
Reedley doesn’t deserve to be recognize as a city competing for the highest sales tax rate. It seems like asking taxpayers to pay more sales tax is a “relied” upon method but it doesn’t solve our predicament. Also, in my opinion, it’s abusive. Reedley needs to step up efforts to encourage and attract more retail development. Unfortunately, in the past Reedley rejected a “big box” retailer like Walmart. That was regrettable. But, being asked to pay more sales tax seems to ignore a search to find long-term, “solution-oriented” strategies. How high will sales tax have to go before we look to other answers that don’t require more taxes?
A sales tax increase seems like the usual ploy that governments rely upon to attack money problems. We need more creative management actions that will produce efficiency, attack spending, and attract more retail business. There’s no easy solution, but the “usual” solution to increase sales tax is intolerable. In good conscience, I cannot justify voting to agree with this sales tax increase.
Edward Hansen is a Reedley resident.