ESCONDIDO — A motion to place a 1% sales tax measure on the November ballot failed to garner enough votes at the Escondido City Council meeting on July 15, which means the city will need to find other ways to close the budget deficit.
The measure aimed to address a structural budget gap exceeding $176 million over the next 18 years, according to city staff. The 1% sales tax would generate $25 million annually in new revenue for maintaining city services.
Before the vote, the council heard a presentation on a recent community survey where 71% of residents expressed support for the measure, which would address the budget deficit, as well as fund projects and programs in the community.
“Although I’m not a fan of raising taxes and I’m hopeful to add some accountability language to what’s being presented, I think the options are minimal,” Councilwoman Olga Diaz said during the meeting. “Putting something on the ballot does not mean it’s approved; it means we’re soliciting input from our community about whether or not they want to be taxed.”
Mayor Paul McNamara also emphasized that it should be left up to the voters.
“I’m not crazy about raising taxes, but there’s a reality staring us in the face. I think that if we don’t bring in other revenues, we’ll create a downward spiral,” McNamara said.
A unanimous vote was needed to pass the measure, but the motion failed 3-1 with McNamara, Diaz and Consuelo Martinez voting for the measure, while Michael Morasco voted against it.
Morasco said he was concerned that, now, in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, may not be the right time for an increased sales tax. He also added that with three council seats up for election and preparations underway for a new city manager and new assistant city manager, the council should wait until after the November elections to consider it.
The current sales tax rate in Escondido is 7.75%, which includes the statewide rate of 7.25%, plus a half-cent for San Diego County’s TransNet program. Of that amount, the city receives 1%.
A term-limits measure for the mayor, council members and city treasurer was also proposed for the November ballot but failed, 2-2.
The council also approved allowing weddings and receptions in the rear yard of the historical Wohlford-Ting House and approved allowing menu board signs and oversized directional signs at car washes.