Measure X -- Modesto’s 1 percent sales tax for public safety, roads, parks and other city services -- has gone down to defeat at the polls, despite supporters raising more than $180,000 in their campaign to pass the tax.
The Stanislaus County elections office released updated numbers Friday for the Tuesday election, which showed 48.7 percent of Modesto voters for the tax and 51.3 percent against it. The tax needed a simple majority to pass.
Measure X trails by 597 votes among the 23,493 votes cast for and against it.
“It’s unfortunate that we weren’t able to clearly voice our need” for additional revenue, said Mayor Garrad Marsh, who gave $5,000 to the Safer Stronger Modesto, Yes on X campaign. Marsh’s wife, Dallas, also gave $5,000 to the campaign.
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Marsh said residents can expect more budget cuts to the city’s roughly $110million general fund, which pays for public safety, parks and other basics. Modesto has cut its general fund for several years but also relied on reserves and borrowing from other accounts to balance its budget. March said the city did this so it could continue to provide services and with the expectation that the economy and city revenues would rebound.
City officials say general fund revenues are not growing fast enough to make up the roughly $20million the general fund has lost since 2008. Marsh said the city no longer can dip into reserves and other accounts and will have to rely solely on spending cuts to balance the general fund.
The budget cuts of the past five years have resulted in one-fifth fewer police officers, city parks getting watered a third less, and city trees getting pruned every eight years instead of five. Supporters say Measure X would have allowed the city to hire more police officers and firefighters, improve city parks and restore other services.
Stanislaus Taxpayers Association President Dave Thomas said Measure X failed because the city and the Measure X campaign failed to deliver a consistent message about why the tax was needed. Additionally, he said, the city asked for too big of a tax increase and for too many years. Measure X would have raised roughly $26 million annually, or about $156 million over its six-year life.
“It was overreaching,” Thomas said.
Voter turnout was 22.4percent, which is typical for an off-year election such as Tuesday’s, where there is not a presidential or gubernatorial race on the ballot.
The updated results confirm the trends from Election Day in several dozen races across the county. For updated results on the other races, go to http://stanvote.com/returns.shtm.
Modesto was one of 10 California cities with a sales tax on Tuesday’s ballot. The nine others – including a three-quarter percent sales tax for bankrupt Stockton – passed. Like Measure X, the nine other tax measures required a simple majority to pass.
On Wednesday, when it became apparent Measure X would not pass, Marsh met with top city officials to start putting together recommendations on cutting the city budget. Those proposals include a citywide hiring freeze, closing Dryden Golf Course and a fire station. Nothing has been decided, and any reductions would have to be approved by the City Council, but the cuts could come as soon as early next year.
The Safer Stronger Modesto, Yes on X campaign raised more than $180,000 for the race, according to the most recent campaign finance forms filed with the city. The Modesto Police Officers Association contributed $100,000, and the Modesto City FireFighters Association contributed $53,800.