Calif. City Considers Sales Tax Hike to Increase Public Safety Staffing
Dec. 27—In response to chronic low staffing levels in the city’s police and fire departments, Chula Vista residents may be asked to vote next year on a measure that would increase the sales tax to fund additional positions.
Over the years, the number of personnel in each agency has not kept pace with the city’s growing population. The shortage, most notably, has left both departments to deal with slow response times.
Earlier this year, the City Council started to tackle the staffing woes, instructing city staff to find solutions. Last week, the staff proposed that the City Council place a half-cent sales tax hike measure on the November 2018 ballot.
The idea was broadly supported by council members, so much so they asked staff to report back on whether it was a feasible option to ask voters to consider the measure as early as June — in the state primary election.
The suggestion for a sales tax hike came after a November survey of about 1,000 residents found that roughly 60 percent would support a similar measure.
If approved, the measure would set the city’s sales tax rate at 8.75 percent and generate $16 million annually, according to city staff.
The funds, which would be split down the middle, would allow the Police Department to hire 43 officers, dispatchers and other staff and allow the Fire Department to hire 36 firefighters, paramedics and other personnel.
Still, the hires would not meet the staffing levels needed based on internal assessments in each agency. In all, the Police Department needs 62 additional personnel, while the Fire Department needs 94, officials in each agency told the City Council.
The proposal for the sales tax measure comes a year after Chula Vista voters approved Measure P, a half-cent sales tax hike to fix, replace and update streets, storm drains, parks and other infrastructure.
Chula Vista’s sales tax, at 8.25 percent, already is higher than the 7.75 percent average for cities in San Diego County. The cities with higher sales tax rates are La Mesa (8.5 percent) and National City (8.75 percent).