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A group of Escondido citizens have submitted enough signatures to put a sales tax increase proposal on the November ballot. Courtesy photo/City of Escondido
A group of Escondido citizens have submitted enough signatures to put a sales tax increase proposal on the November ballot. Courtesy photo/City of Escondido
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Coalition submits signatures for Escondido sales tax measure

ESCONDIDO — A coalition of businesses, labor groups, public safety organizations and other community leaders submitted thousands of signatures to put a one-cent sales tax initiative on the ballot this November. 

The Escondido Citizens for Safety began collecting signatures in January, shortly after the group was formed. The coalition, led by the Escondido Police Officers Association and Escondido Firefighters Association, delivered approximately 11,898 signatures to the city on May 31.

The Escondido City Clerk’s office began counting the signatures on June 3. 

To qualify for the ballot, the sales tax initiative would need signatures from at least 7,748 people — at least 10% of Escondido’s registered voters — according to City Clerk Zack Beck.

Beck said his office has completed the prima facie count of the signatures and has deemed the number to be sufficient to make the ballot. The signatures have been delivered to the San Diego County Registrar of Voters for final verification.

“If the signatures are verified and deemed sufficient by the San Diego County Registrar of Voters, the City Council shall submit the ordinance, without alteration, to the voters,” Beck said via email.

The Registrar of Voters has 30 days to verify the signatures.

The citizens’ coalition has garnered support from former Escondido fire chief J. Neil Hobbs, Deanna Smith, board chair of the Escondido Chamber of Commerce and owner of Deanna’s Gluten Free Bakery, and Rich Aeling, owner of Aelott Air Conditioning and participant in a number of neighborhood civic and charitable organizations.

According to proponents, the city’s financial problems and lack of revenue necessitate a 1% sales tax increase or one cent on the dollar.

The city expects an average operating budget deficit of $10 million over the next five years and an average deficit of $18 million over the next twenty years.

After closing a $11.3 million budget shortfall last year, staff warned the Escondido City Council that the city’s $59.6 million reserve funds would be gone by 2030 if nothing changed, forcing “deep cuts” if additional revenue wasn’t found.

“From the very beginning, this has been a citizen-led effort to bring new investment to our community,” said Escondido Firefighters Association President Joe Portman in a recent announcement from the coalition. “With thousands of Escondido residents joining our cause and signing the petition, this is a clear signal that voters are ready to fix the financial issues facing our city, fund critical services like public safety, and help our neighborhoods thrive.”

The initiative comes a year after voters rejected a ¾-cent sales tax increase that the city proposed in 2022.

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