SOLANA BEACH — Voters living in Solana Beach will be asked to consider a local one-cent sales tax measure in November’s general election to generate revenue for infrastructure, emergency response and traffic management in the city.
The Solana Beach City Council unanimously adopted a resolution and ordinance confirming the measure’s placement on the ballot at its July 13 meeting, following the example of several neighboring cities which have adopted local sales taxes over the years.
Solana Beach residents currently face a sales tax rate of 7.75%, including the 7.25% state tax and a 0.50% SANDAG district tax. An additional one-cent increase would bring the city’s total sales tax to 8.75%, placing Solana Beach among the cities with the highest rates in San Diego County.
City officials estimate the tax will bring approximately $3 million in additional annual revenue for the city, providing reliable, locally-produced funds for the city’s general fund to cover local maintenance and infrastructure in the face of rising costs for services, materials and construction.
“As the cost of services and maintenance continue to increase, so does the need for locally controlled funding,” said City Manager Greg Wade. “Local control in Solana Beach’s funding would allow the city to allocate funds for enhanced city services, projects and amenities that residents have come to rely on.”
A survey of around 400 city residents conducted earlier this year by True North Research found widespread support for a potential sales tax. About 63% of respondents said they would either “probably” or “definitely” support such a measure on the ballot. In comparison, 25% said they “probably” or “definitely” would not support it, and around 10% said they were unsure.
Other survey findings indicated that 84% of residents are satisfied with city services, and 96% rate the quality of life in Solana Beach as “good” or “excellent.” When asked to rate a list of services based on what should be prioritized for funding, services rated the highest included maintaining roads and filling potholes, keeping neighborhoods, parks, beaches, and public areas safe and clean, and reducing trash and pollution in local waterways and at beaches.
City officials emphasized that while the city is in good financial standing, it is becoming increasingly difficult to fund regular maintenance for its 46 miles of roads and storm drains.
“The residents have told us through the survey that they want to maintain the quality of life that is enjoyed in Solana Beach,” Wade said. “Additional and locally controlled funding would help us keep pace with and expand repairs and maintenance to our streets, sidewalk storm drains and public facilities.”
Council members largely supported the tax idea, stating that it would help the city fulfill the many infrastructure and maintenance needs identified by residents awaiting funding.
“As a council member, one of the things that you do like to be able to address the wants and needs of the community,” said Councilmember David Zito. “There are certainly a lot of them out there, and I think this is an opportunity to provide the community members a chance to start accelerating some of the requests we get. Right now, when we have some of these capital projects out there, it’s like, well, we’re getting plans, we’re wanting to do stuff, but it’s going to take a while for us to come up with the money because we’re a small city.”
Other council members were hesitant to impose more taxes on residents, but as Deputy Mayor Kelly Harless noted, those residents will ultimately have the final say in November. The measure needs at least 50% approval to pass.
“I don’t think anybody likes taxes, and I certainly wouldn’t want to encourage a tax when we don’t need it, but I do want the voters to have the opportunity to get information and decide for themselves when it comes to some of these quality of life issues, so I am supportive of letting our residents weigh in,” Harless said.
The cities of Chula Vista, Del Mar, and Imperial City each have their own 1-cent sales tax in place. Oceanside, Vista and El Cajon have implemented a half-cent sales tax measure, and La Mesa has a three-quarter cent sales tax.
The city of Escondido is also considering placing a sales tax measure on the November ballot after the majority of residents indicated they would support it.
The city clerk will now work with the county Registrar of Voters to prepare an impartial analysis and authorize arguments. Placing the measure on the ballot will cost the city approximately $40,000, according to city staff.