RICHMOND -- Richmond voters handed Measure D a resounding defeat Tuesday, making it clear they are not willing to pay more taxes to restore services for children and poor people.
With all precincts reporting, the proposed sales tax increase was rejected by 57 percent of voters.
Measure D would have raised about $5.5 million in new revenue annually by increasing Richmond's sales tax from 9.75 percent to 10.25 percent. It would have given Richmond the highest sales tax rate in the East Bay, along with El Cerrito and Union City.
At the same time that they rejected the tax, voters approved a measure that would have directed additional sales tax revenue to restoring programs in the 30,000-student West Contra Costa Unified School District and bringing back services for low-income and other needy residents.
Measure C, an advisory measure to D, passed by 57 percent.
The City Council called a special June election to present the sales tax increase, which city leaders said was necessary to save children and low-income residents from bearing the brunt of state take-aways.
The school district urged voters to approve both measures, as did city council members and staff.
The Richmond Chamber of Commerce and the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association opposed both measures, saying they would hurt small-business owners and those struggling to make ends meet.
Tax increase supporters countered that these same low-income residents would receive the most benefit from the additional revenue.
Opposition to the tax hike was strongest in the North and West quadrants of the city, while Central and South Richmond voters tended to look more favorably on the measure.
The paired measures, which needed a simple majority vote to pass, circumvented a 1979 law that requires a two-thirds majority to pass taxes mandated for specific purposes such as schools.
The Taxpayers Association had pledged to bring the city to court on these grounds should the measures pass.
Fewer than 8,000 residents weighed in on the election, with few voters turning out in North and Central Richmond, and less than half of residents voting in the Point Richmond and Marina Bay neighborhoods, where turnout was the highest.
Councilman Tom Butt delivered the bad news during Tuesday's City Council meeting, as the council was reviewing the city's annual budget. The budget, which already calls for sharp cuts, had counted on the tax passing.
"We will be discussing what projects we can put on hold a little longer," Mayor Gayle McLaughlin said. "This council is committed to not laying off people, but we will need to cut back."