Kevin Valine

City Council doesn’t want to go there on sales tax increase

This should not surprise anyone: The City Council does not want to talk about putting a public safety tax on the November ballot.

Councilwoman Kristi Ah You asked Tuesday for a discussion to be put on the agenda of a future council meeting, but she did not garner enough votes from her colleagues. She and Councilman Tony Madrigal cast the two votes in favor of having a discussion while the five other council members voted against it.

The vote came after a confusing discussion among council members about whether to have a future discussion regarding the tax. City Attorney Adam Lindgren advised council members to focus their comments on whether to put a sales tax discussion on a future agenda and not on the merits of the tax. There also was confusion about whether Ah You was asking to have the discussion at a council workshop or council meeting.

“I’m getting confused myself,” Ah You said at one point.

Ah You said in an interview that she expected her proposal to fail but will keep pushing to increase public safety and reduce crime. She said that could include looking at a community facilities district to fund public safety for her council district.

“I died on the hill tonight,” she said. “But I won’t die on the next hill.”

Ah You’s district includes the college area, and residents there are upset about vagrancy in Graceada and Enslen parks and crime in their neighborhood.

She has proposed that Modesto consider a half-cent sales tax increase for public safety. A special tax requires two-thirds voter approval and can be spent only on its special purpose. Modesto voters rejected general sales tax increases – which require a simple majority to pass – in November 2013 and November 2015. While these taxes can be used for general government purposes, Modesto officials said they would use much of the tax proceeds for public safety.

But special taxes have their shortcomings. They can lock spending in and deny a city the flexibility it needs to react to changing circumstances, such as an economic downturn or crisis. They also are more likely to be rejected by voters than general tax increases.

Kevin Valine: 209-578-2316