As Election Day approaches, it's time to exercise your right to vote and have your voice be heard. In Tracy, there are nine candidates running for two open seats on the City Council. You might think that having nine candidates to choose from would be the focus of this local election, yet the real buzz is actually Measure E (the proposed half-cent sales tax).
"We need this tax in order to balance our budget," said City Councilman Steve Abercrombie. "Measure E will ensure the services and quality of life that the residents of Tracy expect and appreciate." The council voted 4-1 to add this measure to the November ballot.
Godbe Research surveyed 400 registered voters before the submission of Measure E to council. The voters were asked if they would support a $200 parcel tax for public safety or a half-cent sales tax to support all city services. Results showed that only 30 percent of those surveyed would support a parcel tax, while 64 percent would support a half-cent sales tax. The percentage increased to 67 percent support, if the half-cent sales tax had a sunset clause attached and there was a resident oversight committee established.
Tracy resident Linda Warne was one of those who took part in the survey. "I received a phone call and they asked a variety of questions about how I felt on the city services," said Warne. "They asked about police, fire, the animal shelter, Grand Theatre, and parks and recreational services. I was also asked to rank those services in order of importance. The interviewer followed up by asking if I was willing to pay an extra sales tax to help fund those services. I told them I was in favor of the extra tax, even though I don't necessarily use all of them."
If Measure E passes, the resident oversight committee would consist of five community members appointed by the council. It is expected to be in place by March 2011.
Both supporters and opponents of Measure E have had it out, debatewise, at local forums to which the public was invited to take part and ask questions. If passed, Tracy's sales tax would go into effect April 1, 2011, and raise the current rate from 8.75 percent to 9.25 percent. The tax would be in place for the next five years, as there is a sunset clause attached to it.
Taxable items include discretionary items such as clothing, furniture, appliances and cars. Measure E does not apply to food, rent, medical costs or prescription drugs.
"Tracy is facing a $5 million deficit," said Scott Claar, the co-chairman for the Committee for Yes on Measure E. "In order to avoid deep cuts in our police and fire services, we really need this measure to pass. Over the past two years, the city has already cut $3.1 million from the general fund and 90 full-time positions. Yet, we are still currently facing a $5 million budget deficit."
Local supporters of Measure E include the Tracy Police Officers Association and the Firefighters Association. Opponents to Measure E include the Tracy Tea Party Patriots.
"This is the worst time to raise taxes," said Tracy Tea Party Patriot Jim Freeman. "Just as we must live within our means in our households, government at all levels must be held accountable to live within their means. The city has not managed the money they have properly, so giving them more voluntarily is just enabling that bad behavior. As revenues dropped the last three years, spending on payroll and benefits has increased each year."