S. E. Williams
This year, not only will Inland Empire voters decide on an unprecedented number of statewide ballot measures, they must also decide on a large number of local initiatives and the personal costs associated with them.
A good number of this year’s local ballot initiatives involve local tax and bond measures. According to a report released in late September by the California Taxpayers Association, this year voters all over the state are being asked to decide on 228 local tax measures representing a cumulative tax increase of more than $3 billion per year, along with 193 bonds that could dramatically increase annual property taxes.
For local governments to place more tax and bond measures on the ballot during presidential election years is certainly no aberration; however, this year the number of local measures being considered is epic—the 86 sales tax measures being considered in communities across the state are dramatically higher than the 46 tax measures considered in both the primary and general elections of 2012.
The report stressed that local taxes not only support local governments, they can also have a significant impact on the cost of living, and influence taxpayers’ decisions about where to live, shop, start a business or expand an existing business.”
Sales and Use Taxes
In 2016, several Riverside and San Bernardino communities have sales and use taxes on the ballot. Sales taxes are imposed on retailers who sell tangible personal property within California. The tax, officially known as the sales and use tax, also applies to transactions in which the seller does not collect California sales tax, but because the product is purchased for use in the state, the purchaser much remit the tax to the state.
It is important to note that local sales tax measures require a majority vote if the revenue is being collected to go into a general fund; however, a two-thirds vote is required if it is considered a special tax with its revenue earmarked for a specific purpose. Some local governments pair majority-vote general sales taxes with non-binding advisory measures in an attempt to convince voters that the money will be used for specified purposes, while maintaining the majority-vote threshold and the freedom to channel the revenue to the general fund at its discretion.
In Riverside County, the number of cities considering sales tax measures this year include:
City of Hemet’s Measure U will increase the city's sales tax rate by 1 percent for 10 years to fund general city services. The city has approved a non-binding resolution stating that priority will be placed on spending for police and fire services. It is projected to raise $10 million.
• City of Indio’s Measure X will increase the city's sales tax rate from 8 percent to 9 percent for 20 years to fund general city services for additional revenue in the amount of $8.5 million.
• City of La Quinta’s Measure G will increase the city's sales tax rate from 8 percent to 9 percent in perpetuity to fund general city services it is expected to raise $6 million annually.
• City of Menifee’s Measure DD will increase the city's sales tax rate by 1 percent to fund general city services. It will raise $6.2 million.
• City of Riverside’s Measure Z will increase the city's sales tax rate from 8 percent to 9 percent for 20 years to fund general city services. It is expected to generate $48 million.
• City of Temecula’s Measure S will increase that city's sales tax rate from 8 percent to 9 percent to fund general city services. It is expected to generate $23 million.
In San Bernardino County the Town of Yucca Valley, the only community considering a sales tax measure this year, is actually considering two such measures.
• Yucca Valley’s Measure Y will increase the town's sales tax rate by 0.5 percent for 10 years to fund general town services. City officials have stated that the spending would focus on crime prevention and street repair.
• Yucca Valley’s Measure Z will increase the town's sales tax rate by 0.5 percent for 10 years to reduce the cost to taxpayers for funding the sewer system, improve water conservation, and ensure clean drinking water.
This year some Riverside and San Bernardino voters will also be asked to weigh in on the issue of parcel taxes. A parcel tax is a property tax on a parcel of land, but is distinct from the annual property tax that is based on the value of the property. To win approval, a parcel tax must be approved by a two-thirds vote of the electorate in the district that is proposing the tax.
In Riverside County this year, the community of Idyllwild is considering such a measure:
• Idyllwild Fire Protection District’s Measure W will impose a parcel tax of $130 annually, with annual increases up to 3 percent, to fund fire protection and emergency medical services in the community.
In San Bernardino County, voters in two communities will also consider parcel taxes. They include:
• Apple Valley Fire Protection District’s Measure A that could will impose a tax of $126.90 per residential unit, with varying rates for vacant land and commercial property, in perpetuity to fund emergency medical and fire protection services.
• Running Springs Water District’s Measure B will increase the district's annual parcel tax (described as an "availability charge") from $65 to $147 per unit of benefit to fund emergency medical and fire protection services.
Also this year, communities in both Riverside and San Bernardino Counties are considering increased hotel taxes. Hotel taxes or transient occupancy taxes as they are officially identified, are levied on occupants of rooms or living space at hotels, inns, rental tourist houses, homes, motels and spaces at campgrounds or recreational vehicle parks. Hotel taxes are charged if the stay lasts 31 days or less. The amount of tax is based on the cost of the room. These taxes require majority voter approval.
This year, a number of voters in Riverside County are being asked to weigh in on hotel taxes. The involved communities include:
• City of Indian Wells’ Measure GG. It will increase the city's hotel tax rate from 11.25 percent to 12.25 percent to fund general city services.
• City of Moreno Valley’s Measure L will increase the city's hotel tax rate from 8 percent to 13 percent to fund general city services.
• City of Palm Desert’s Measure T will increase the city's hotel tax rate from 9 percent to 11 percent to fund general city services.
• City of San Jacinto’s Measure BB calls for an increase of the city's hotel tax rate from 8 percent to 12 percent to fund general city services.
In San Bernardino County, voters in the City of Colton are the only county residents being asked to consider a hotel tax this year.
The City of Colton’s Measure T will increase the city's hotel tax rate from 10 percent to 12.5 percent, with 2.5 percent to be used to fund construction, maintenance, and rehabilitate athletic fields and related facilities. The other 10 percent will be used to fund general city services.
Business and Other Taxes
Local governments have the authority to impose a variety of taxes on businesses as well as excise taxes that target consumers and/or producers of goods. Such taxes also require a majority vote if the money is going to the municipality’s general fund or a two-thirds vote if the money is targeted for a specific purpose(s).
This year, the City of Adelanto in San Bernardino County is the only community in the inland region with such an initiative on the ballot.
City of Adelanto’s Business License Tax Measure S replaces the city's existing $50 flat business license fee with a business license tax of 0.05 percent of the gross revenue of each business operating within the city.
Some Inland Empire communities are looking to increase their coffers with the help of taxes on marijuana in 2016. Although a number of excise taxes on marijuana appear on the November ballot, many of them are in the form of business license taxes. Also, a number of the measures are contingent upon statewide legalization and future city/county approval of marijuana business operations. If the revenue from marijuana taxes is earmarked for a specific purpose it requires approval by two-thirds of the voters; otherwise, it can be approved with a simple majority.
The cities in Riverside County that are considering marijuana related taxes this year include:
• Cathedral City’s Measure P that will impose a tax of $25 per square foot of marijuana cultivation space, as well as $1 per gram of cannabis concentrate and every unit of marijuana-infused product produced in the city, to fund general city services.
• City of Coachella’s Measure II imposes a tax on marijuana business gross receipts at a maximum rate of 6 percent as well as $15 per square foot of cultivation and manufacturing space every quarter, to fund general city services.
• City of Perris’ Measure J will impose a tax on medical marijuana dispensaries in the city at a maximum rate of 10 percent of monthly business proceeds, to fund general city services.
• City of San Jacinto’s Measure AA will impose a tax of $50 per square foot of marijuana growing operations as well as a tax on marijuana sales.
• In San Bernardino County the City of Adelanto is also considering a marijuana tax.
• The City of Adelanto’s Measure R calls for excise tax of up to 5 percent on each type of commercial marijuana activity in the city.
The City of San Bernardino has three competing measures on the ballot Measures N, O, P all attempt to regulate marijuana cultivation and distribution in the city limits.
School Bonds are another key source of revenue. By law, school districts are authorized to issue bonds to fund construction and maintenance of school facilities, including classrooms, gymnasiums and fields. School bonds are repaid through additional property taxes on home and business owners located within the boundaries of the school district. These taxes can often last for decades—according to the state’s Legislative Analyst’s Office, school bonds are typically repaid over a period of 20 to 30 years. Bond measures require 55 percent voter approval.
School Districts in Riverside County that are asking voters to consider bond measures in 2016 include:
• Banning Unified School District’s Measure M. It is asking that $25.5 million of previously approved Measure R bond funds (approved by voters in 2006) be used to expand technical education facilities, construct a performing arts building, and make safety improvements at Banning High School.
• Lake Elsinore Unified School District is hoping for passage of Measure V, a $105 million bond to replace and upgrade facilities, including security and technology.
• Menifee Union School District’s Measure Q is calling for a $135 million bond to repair facilities, improve safety, and update technology.
• Palm Springs Unified School District has proposed Measure I, a $216.46 million bond to modernize or construct new facilities and improve safety.
• Riverside Unified School District’s Measure O is calling for a $392 million bond to repair and upgrade classrooms and facilities, improve technology, and increase safety and security.
• San Jacinto Unified School District’s Measure Y has asked voters to consider a $44.9 million bond to repair and upgrade classrooms and facilities, modernize technology, and improve safety and security.
Several school districts in San Bernardino County have also asked voters to consider bond measures. They include:
• Alta Loma School District’s Measure H, a $58 million bond to repair and modernize classrooms and facilities, improve disabled access, and increase security.
• Barstow Unified School District’s Measure F, a $39 million bond measure to repair and upgrade classrooms and facilities, mitigate safety hazards, upgrade security, and improve technology.
• Chino Valley Unified School District’s Measure G is a $750 million bond to upgrade and repair classrooms and facilities, mitigate safety hazards, and improve technology.
• Etiwanda School District’s Measure I, a $137 million bond to repair and upgrade classrooms and facilities, improve technology and security, and equip schools.
Ontario-Montclair School District’s Measure K, a $150 million bond measure to repair and upgrade classrooms and facilities, improve disabled access, mitigate safety hazards, and improve security.
There are a number of other local measures on the 2016 ballot that do not include tax or bond provisions and as a result, are not included in this summary.