The City Council is expected to discuss at a Tuesday workshop the proposed appointees to an oversight committee that would monitor spending of Measure G, the one-half percent general sales tax increase on the Nov. 3 ballot.
Measure G can be spent on any general government purpose, but the council has said it intends to spend it on Modesto’s Safer Neighborhoods Initiative, which primarily calls for hiring more police officers and other public safety efforts as well as efforts to strengthen neighborhoods. The council also set up an oversight committee to monitor how the tax increase is spend and make recommendations to the council.
Measure G would increase Modesto’s sales tax rate from 7.625 percent to 8.125 percent and raise about $14 million annually.
The proposed committee members were selected by groups throughout the community, including Modesto City Schools and the League of Women Voters of Stanislaus County. According to the city, the proposed members and the groups they represent are:
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▪ Otto Werner, Karen Swehla, Gustavo Martinez and Lita Theodore from Modesto Neighborhoods Inc.
▪ Superintendent Pam Able from Modesto City Schools
▪ Chamber of Commerce CEO Cecil Russell
▪ Astrid Zuniga from the Central Labor Council
▪ Richard Jacobs from the League of Women Voters
▪ Linda Lowe from Stanislaus County Aging and Veterans Services
▪ Joe Aja as a public safety representative
▪ Joseph Sanchez from South Modesto Business Leaders United
The council also is expected to discuss the responsibilities of the oversight committee. Councilman Dave Lopez, who opposes Measure G and is running for mayor, has questioned why the city is moving forward with the committee now. He has said the electorate has not even voted on the sales tax increase. And it if passed, it would not take effect until April 1.
As part of Measure G, city officials also have committed to certain goals, such as reducing the crime rate by roughly 50 percent, which would bring Modesto to the state average. and a 30 percent increase in the number of neighborhood groups.
But critics say that because Measure G is a general tax the city can and will spend it on any general government purpose. They also say the city has not done enough to gets its financial house in order and question why the city would approve pay raises for many of its employee groups within the last year if its finances were in such poor shape. The raises total 6 percent for Modesto Police Officer Association members and 2 percent for city employees.
The workshop will be held in room B300 after the council meeting and is open to the public. The council meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. in the basement chambers of Tenth Street Place, 1010 10th St.