OCEANSIDE — Oceanside is considering adding a half-cent city sales tax to increase its revenues and meet rising city service costs including paying for crime prevention, 911 responses and road pothole repairs.
Oceanside currently has a 7.75 percent sales tax. A half-cent increase would generate $11.2 million in annual revenues.
The proposed tax increase comes after the city has made deep cuts to reduce its budget. In past years 100 employees were laid off and not rehired and department budgets were severely trimmed.
Going forward the city is looking for ways to increase its revenues.
Results of a city voter survey of a half-cent sales tax increase being put on the November 2018 ballot were shared by True North Research staff at the Nov. 15 City Council meeting, with positive findings.
A phone survey of 1,334 city voters was conducted in English and Spanish from Sept. 25 to Oct 3.
Voters expressed 80 percent satisfaction with city efforts to provide services.
A solid 62 percent of voters surveyed said they would support a sales tax increase being placed on the upcoming ballot. Voters said they are strongly in favor of more funds for public safety and public works.
Council members said they want to ensure there is broad community outreach about the proposed tax increase.
“Council member Sanchez indicated that she was supportive and wanted to engage the community,” Deanna Lorson, assistant city manager, said. “Deputy Mayor Lowery asked about the outreach process.”
Following the council meeting Lowery said additional sources of city income are needed.
“Property tax and sales tax aren’t enough to maintain and improve city services like police and fire,” Lowery said. “A half-cent sales tax adds up to millions. It all stays here in Oceanside.”
The city is in the process of negotiating a contract for additional outreach on the tax increase. Funds are available to go forward with community presentations and informational material.
“The first task under the contract will be to develop the community outreach plan,” Lorson said. “The intent is to begin this process in January continuing through the spring.”
The proposed tax increase is expected to come back to council for a vote in June 2018. A yes vote from all four council members is required for the item to be placed on the November ballot.
Lowery said he is in favor of a sales tax increase going to a vote.
“The in-depth poll shows most in favor,” Lowery said. “I would choose to support the ‘will of the people.’ It’s their choice and their right to vote.”
Aug. 10, 2018, is the deadline to add the initiative to the 2018 ballot.
Once on the ballot it would need a simple majority vote of city residents to pass.
The cities of Del Mar and Vista successfully raised their sales tax in 2016 to 8.75 percent and 8.25, percent respectively. The state average is 8.5 percent sales tax.