The votes are in, but the debate over the controversial Measure C, also known as the Pismo Beach Vital Public Service Protection Measure, is not likely to cease.
The sales tax in the city of Pismo Beach will increase from 7.25 percent to 7.75 percent. The increased tax will provide the city with $1 million per year, which is desperately needed, the city says, to maintain infrastructure and keep the city in good working condition.
The measure passed with 55.79 percent of 2,332 voters in favor of the increase.
City officials said that budget cuts have left little money to spend on street and sidewalk maintenance, pier repairs and storm drain replacement, and that the tax increase was necessary to accommodate for cuts, raise funds and maintain the quality and beauty of the city through maintenance and repairs.
Prior to the election, Pismo Beach Mayor Mary Ann Reiss, said her first priority would be funding the repair and resurfacing of the neighborhood streets if the measure passed.
“They’ve been long neglected. We’ve been able to do some of the major arteries like Price Street and James Way, but not the neighborhood streets,” she said.
The Pismo Beach Chamber of Commerce and the Pismo Beach City Council both support the measure.
The funds from the increased local tax will be used locally as the city sees fit.
For that reason, some oppose the measure, stating that there is no specific plan for the funds raised, so the council may allocate the funds to any cause they choose.
“They’re against an increase in sales tax, period,” Reiss speculated. Reiss said a sunset clause included in the measure keeps the tax in place six and a half years, after which residents have the opportunity to vote on the measure again. Reiss also said the city would be sending out biannual reports showing how the council has uses the money raised by the tax increase.
Benito “Joe” Crescione, who is the former mayor of Pismo Beach and has two-time city councilman, said, “The problem is the things they said this money could be used for are items that are already necessary for the city.” In an interview prior to the election, Crescione said the problem is with the word “could,” because the money collected from the increased sales tax will go into the general fund, which means the money is not designated for a specific purpose.
Crescione said supporters of the measure argue tourists will be paying the sales tax as well, but he disagrees with that point. Visitors to the city, he said, only have to experience that tax for a couple of days or a weekend.
“I live here all the time, which means I pay the tax all the time,” he said. Crescione mentioned residents of the mobile home parks who operate on a fixed income, and said it is unfair to them to be burdened with an extra tax.
Crescione also said that Pismo Beach is the sixth wealthiest city per capita in the state of California, and that the reasons for asking for the increase in tax are unexplained and unjustified.
“They want more money – tell me what for,” he said.