The Vanguard is certainly sympathetic to the county’s plight particularly in light of the devastating cuts to health care services that will put all county residents at a great health risk. However, the Vanguard does not believe that this is a feasible plan.
However, the city of Davis voters are facing their own problems. In June, the city will ask them to renew their own half-cent sales tax – a measure that has been scrutinized and criticized heavily on these pages.
The school district is in the process of not only laying off over a 100 employees, but will be polling to see if support exists for yet another parcel tax. Currently city residents who own homes are paying $320 per year to aid the schools, the number go up as high as $600 if current proposals are put on the ballot and approved by the voters in November.
Moreover, few residents of Davis know it yet, but they are facing a series of annual 18% rate hikes for water, possibly starting later this year. It is not a “tax” per se, but will nevertheless “tax” people’s pocketbooks.
All of this at a time when the two biggest employers in Davis – UC Davis and the State of California are cutting back on wages, laying people off, and putting some of furloughs. Davis has traditionally back tax measures, but given the current economic malaise, will they continue to?
Woodland, for their part is fighting their own quarter-percent sales tax that will be on the ballot in June.
Thus a county proposal likely would compete with the school parcel tax and follow the rate hike for water and the city’s half-percent sales tax renewal in June. In 2007, voters in Davis passed simultaneous parcel taxes for schools and the library, but in very different economic times.
There are far more complications that just this. Because 90 percent of the county lives in cities, the cities and not the county would have to put the measure on the ballot. Would the cities, that are financially strapped, pass the money through to the county?
Dirk Brazil, Deputy County Administrator suggested that this could set up a tug-of-war between the county and cities as to how much money would go to which location.
For his part, County Supervisor Jim Provenza suggested making it a public safety tax as the deficit could force the sheriff’s to cut back on patrols and release small-time criminals from the county jail. But what about the health and mental health services that are being decimated?
Supervisor Matt Rexroad argued that this effort was doomed as Yolo County residents identify themselves with the city they live rather than the county. Moreover, most of the county services are directly utilized by non-voters – the indigent who rely on health services and food assistance and criminals who utilize the criminal justice system.
People in this county who vote have a much more direct contact with the schools and their city than they do the county and county services. And while Mr. Provenza suggested a public safety tax, he needs to remember that only about 24,000 people rely on the Sheriff’s Department for their primary law enforcement. Most in this county rely on municipal police services.
Supervisors Jim Provenza and Matt Rexroad will serve on the subcommittee that will look into these matters. But to me this proposal seems dead on arrival. The bottom line is that people are not likely to support a tax during these times that goes to services that they do not consume directly and have little connection to.
—David M. Greenwald reporting