UKIAH, CA, 6/7/22 – On Wednesday, as part of its 2022-23 budget hearing meetings, the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors will discuss a controversial move to add a new sales tax to November’s ballot. Supervisors first introduced this concept in a meeting on May 17, when some board members asked staff to go forward with developing a possible tax. In Wednesday’s conversation, the board is expected to consider whether or not to continue with this proposed measure, as well as to direct county staff on its specifics: exactly how much the tax would be and where to allocate funds raised from the new tax.
According to a memo from the county’s legal counsel asking for further guidance, funds from the tax would be dedicated to fire protection and/or water provision. But questions remain about the amount to be taxed and the specific allocation of its proceeds. Supervisors will likely endeavor to nail down the tax’s nature and benefits on Wednesday.
One supervisor and several constituents have vocally opposed introducing the new tax measure to Mendocino County ballots this election cycle, primarily because the Citizens for the Library Initiative 2022 already laid the groundwork for its own tax to be voted on this year.
The committee supporting the library Initiative wrote to the board after supervisors proposed the new sales tax in May, saying a new tax would compete with the committee’s campaign to Renew Measure A – which was developed as the result of board approval for a strategic plan for library funding in 2019.
“It is important to the credibility of both the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors and the Citizens Committee for the Library Initiative that a ‘competing sales tax’ not be on the November ballot,” ten committee members wrote on Friday.
These residents hope to impose a permanent quarter-cent sales tax to maintain and improve library services in Mendocino County, allocating the tax’s revenue to a special fund dedicated solely to that goal. At least forty percent of the proceeds would be reserved for building improvements, the committee said.
The committee also said a petition it created had garnered signatures from 4,200 citizens who supported the measure as of Friday.
Supervisor Dan Gjerde, who represents the 4th district, believes that the library committee’s approach is more likely to gain voter approval than the supervisors’ possible measure.
“They are going to the ballot with demonstrated support from the public,” he wrote in a memo to his fellow supervisors on Sunday. “They have written a citizen’s ballot measure, and local voters are signing petitions to place the measure on the ballot. In doing so they have explained the purpose and value of the tax to a sizable share of the local electorate, likely assuring the measure will win voter approval in the election.”
Since another tax, Measure B, will expire this year, the library committee’s proposed tax would not result in a higher tax burden for Mendocino County residents.
By contrast, Gjerde believes it’s too late for board supervisors and county staff to consult with stakeholders on the desired specifics of the competing tax in time for this election. He also fears the proposed measure for water and firefighting revenue would heighten community anxieties during a period of inflation.
“This is not a time to place multiple taxes on an election ballot,” he wrote.
Board discussion of the tax is listed as agenda item 4d, following hearings on the proposed budget continuing from Tuesday; discussion of capital improvement projects at the Fort Bragg Justice Center; and possible authorization of grant applications to fund micro business development and environment study.
The five-person board will convene beginning at 9 a.m. Wednesday.
Residents can join the Board of Supervisors meeting online or in-person at 501 Low Gap Rd in Ukiah, Room 1070.
Kate Fishman reports on the environment and natural resources for The Mendocino Voice as a corps member with Report for America. Her position is funded by the Community Foundation of Mendocino, Report for America, & our readers. You can support her work here or email [email protected]. TMV maintains editorial control. You can reach Fishman at [email protected] or at (707) 234-7735.