Modesto Councilwoman Kristi Ah You would like to see a sales tax increase on the November ballot to pay for hiring more police officers and for other public safety resources.
She is proposing a half-cent special tax that could be spent only on public safety and would end after seven years. Unlike general taxes, which require majority approval and can be used for a variety of purposes, a special tax requires two-thirds approval and can be used only for its designated purpose.
Ah You said she will talk about her proposal at Tuesday’s meeting of the City Council, but the council will take no action on it then. She believes the community will support the tax and asks residents to weigh in by contacting her and other city officials.
“I think your average citizen would like a stronger police presence in our community,” she said. “We need to invest in our police and fire (departments).”
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I think your average citizen would like a stronger police presence in our community. We need to invest in our police and fire.
Councilwoman Kristi Ah You
Ah You said beefing up public safety will not solve all of the city’s problems, but it will make a big difference. For example, she said, having more officers patrolling city parks would serve as a deterrent to those who drink, use drugs and engage in other bad behavior. She added that it will be easier for Modesto to attract and keep businesses if the city is safer.
Ah You faces several challenges, including a lack of support among her fellow council members, with Councilman Tony Madrigal her only backer on the seven-member panel.
“I definitely support putting it on the ballot,” he said. “We need to give voters in Modesto the opportunity to weigh in on the type of funding for fire, police and safety services they want to have.”
Mayor Ted Brandvold and Councilwoman Jenny Kenoyer said they don’t support Ah You’s proposal, while Councilmen Bill Zoslocki and Doug Ridenour have strong reservations but want to know more. Councilman Mani Grewal said the city could address the issues Ah You has raised by putting a marijuana sales tax on the ballot, with some of the tax proceeds being used for public safety.
“I would not support it,” said Brandvold. “I can’t get behind it. When I ran my campaign, I told the citizens I would not bring any tax forward until we can show the citizens the city is being fiscally prudent with their money. I don’t think we are there yet.”
Ah You’s proposal comes after the council has approved pay increases for police officers. And it comes as Modesto and local governments across the state face significant increases in what they will pay into the California Public Employees’ Retirement System. Modesto could see its pension costs increase by more than 50 percent in several years.
“I don’t want perceptions out there that we are getting a tax to pay (for) this CalPERS situation,” Brandvold said. “There is always that perception.”
Ah You said the tax would have safeguards to ensure it was spent only to hire more public safety employees and for additional law-enforcement resources. She said while other council members may not support her proposal, she would like them to put it on the ballot and let the voters decide.
Modesto voters rejected general sales tax increases in 2013 and 2015. Officials said those taxes would have supported public safety.
Modesto voters rejected general sales tax increases in 2013 and 2015. Officials said those taxes would have supported public safety. But Ah You said residents tell her they would support a special tax because it could be spent only for public safety.
Voters also may be taxed out. They approved a countywide half-cent transportation tax in November, and there will be at least one tax proposal on the upcoming November ballot. Stanislaus County will be renewing the sales tax that supports libraries, and there could be a marijuana sales tax on the ballot. But Ah You said Modesto needs quick action to tackle its crime problem.
“Voters need to ask what their choices are,” she said. “We have some really bad crime issues.”
Kevin Valine: 209-578-2316