Council Votes to Put Sales Tax on Ballot for November

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Davis, CA – The Davis City Council voted unanimously to place a one percent sales tax increase on the November ballot.  The measure would raise the sales tax in the city of Davis from 8.25 percent to 9.25 percent.  Council was quick to note that two of neighboring communities are proposing similar sales tax increases.

Will Arnold and Donna Neville were named to the ballot measure subcommittee.

While much of the public comment was favorable towards the revenue measure, Elaine Roberts Musser continued to speak out against the measure.

“I never thought I would see the day when I would oppose a tax measure,” she said.  “However, I was appalled at the reaction of some members of the city council when public commenters expressed concern about the state of the budget and evisceration of citizen oversight commenters who spoke out were gaslighted accused of seeking revenge and engaging in hyperbole.”

She argued, “What this says to me are several things about this city council.  One, it has no good response to citizens’ concerns or else it would have provided it.”

Second, she said, “It only pays lip service to citizen participation in local governance.”

She continued to highlight several problems.

  • No city audit in three years;
  • A general fund reserve of 7.5%, half the 15% it should be;
  • One-time gimmicks/delays: suspension of paying down $42 million in unfunded liability of employee healthcare benefits; reduction of $1.5 million originally intended for pavement management;
  • A 1% sales tax increase, to offset general fund reserves and to pay for additional services/programs; what new services/programs is purposely vague.

Musser concluded that “the city council is asking taxpayers to open their collective wallets and approve a general tax increase. In effect, it wants a blank check without any accountability insisting we trust it to make responsible decisions. Well, in my opinion, the city council has to earn that trust and it certainly hasn’t by its actions. Instead, it has treated the public with disdain showing little concern for the dismal state of the budget. So, I vigorously oppose any tax increase.”

Following public comment, Councilmember Will Arnold pushed back, noting, “I’m confident that a fact-based campaign will lead folks to understand the wisdom behind this.”

Councilmember Arnold noted that Musser was “absolutely instrumental in passing what I still believe to be the most important election that the voters in our community have ever faced, which was joining with the city of Woodland on this joint water project absolutely critical to the future of our community.”

Arnold noted that some of his response was to a comment and a letter that appeared in the local paper from Wallace Pearce (Arnold incorrectly named the individual during the meeting), who accused the council of descending into fascism.

“(I)t appears by the City Council’s flawed, prejudiced decision, they’ve chosen to flout democracy and transfer directly to authoritarianism,” Pearce wrote on May 28.  “The Davis City Council’s fascism has rejected our democracy, and political plurality. Their use of strongarms for central power to preserve their status quo, has degraded the rule of law, separation of powers, and our democratic voting system.”

Arnold said, “That’s also been in the paper that we are now a fascist regime because of how we’ve decided to address our commission structure. If that’s not hyperbole, I don’t know what is.”

Thus, Arnold said, “I think it’s pretty fair to say that we’ve been subjected to hyperbole, and that’s just on this one very narrow issue. Of course, we have hyperbole thrown at us a whole lot, and so, look, we’re going to, I hope that my colleagues will join me in supporting this ballot measure moving forward.”

Councilmember Arnold noted that in 2018, the voters by a majority supported a parcel tax for roads, and nearly three out of five Davis residents “were all in favor of that, but because of Prop 13, it’s not the law of the land.”

He said that “we have tried over the years to find ways to fill what we knew was an impending budget gap.”

He noted the state’s budget crunch and the fact that two of “our closest neighbors in Yolo County are also going to be putting taxes, revenue measures like this on the November ballot. So we’re not alone. I think it’s frankly a little disingenuous to imply that it’s somehow a unique issue to Davis that these are, if it weren’t for X, Y, and Z decision that was made in the very recent path that we wouldn’t be in this situation.”

This was a point backed by Councilmember Gloria Partida, “And I was really hopeful that we could get some economic development going and we haven’t been able to do that.”

She said, “So now we find ourselves in this situation, which because the cities around us are also looking for the same increase in their taxes, I think it just reinforces the fact that everyone is struggling with this same issue.”

Will Arnold made the motion to put the matter on the ballot, it was seconded by Bapu Vaitla and passed unanimously.  Now it will be up to the voters in November to decide whether to support the tax increase.

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. johncooper

    My neighborhood park is falling apart, but no description of how new tax revenue will be spent. Will it only cover money misspent in the past? Will a comprehensive city fiscal report come before a vote to double our taxes? 43 years in Davis and I no longer trust my City government. Seems like Counsel is trying to move fast and shady on this tax increase. Show us the numbers.

    1. Keith Y Echols

      Yes, It’s been about 5-6 years since we took our kids regularly to the playground in Central Park but we ended up wandering over there on Mother’s Day.  I was stunned at the poor condition the playground was in.  If you look around Davis you’ll see more neglect of basic maintenance than there was in years past.  Covell in front of Nugget is a mess.  There are weeds sticking out along roads and in the parks in many places in Davis.  About 15 years ago the city couldn’t afford to repair the Community Park Pool so it had lease it out to Aqua Darts fulltime.  The city says it has a balanced budget but I highly suspect there’s a lot of delayed maintenance that has helped it reach a balanced budget. 

      So every time the people vote down a business park.  Or protest, delay and prevent some sort of commercial retail expansion or enact ordinances that limit the sizes of stores in Davis.  Just remember all that leads to less business, less sales tax revenue and ultimately less services the city can provide.

  2. johncooper

    My neighborhood park is falling apart, but no description of how new tax revenue will be spent. Will it only cover for misspent money from the past? 43 years in Davis and I no longer trust my City government. Seems like Counsel is trying to move fast and shady on this tax increase. Show us the numbers.

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