To tax or not to tax? That is the question

We need a tax increase
By Ventura Mayor Erik Nasarenko and Deputy Mayor Neal Andrews

As 20-foot waves pounded our 143-year-old pier recently, causing damage costing at least half a million dollars to repair, Venturans were reminded of what makes our great city so special, but also very expensive to maintain.  Ventura is a truly beautiful city, but it’s also Ventura County’s oldest city.  It has a stunning natural landscape that sometimes inflicts costly damage to our aged infrastructure.  As our City Manager likes to point out, Ventura is like a stately Victorian home, majestic and elegant from the outside, but upon closer inspection it needs plenty of work, from new plumbing to necessary electrical upgrades.  Unlike nearby inland cities that incorporated in the 1960s, Ventura’s birth as a city occurred nearly 150 years ago, when President Andrew Johnson occupied the White House and the country was still reeling from the Civil War.

As we celebrate our 150th anniversary as a city, Venturans need to both look to our past as well as envision a better future.  What investments do we need to make today that will create a more secure tomorrow? How can we maintain our great natural beauty while ensuring that basic, core services – services like police and fire response – are provided to residents efficiently and effectively?

Ventura has few options under State law. One of the most important possibilities allowed is a local sales tax because all the money generated by it stays in our community to support local needs.  All cities in California are required by the State to apply a 7.5 percent tax on most retail purchases within their boundaries. The vast majority of those tax proceeds go to State and County government.  For example, in fiscal year 2014-2015 approximately $176 million in sales tax was generated in Ventura, but the City was able to keep only $24.4 million of that amount. Basically, most State sales taxes don’t help Ventura, leaving our residents and City officials with a long list of needs, but little money to meet those needs.

And those property taxes you paid in December? For every one dollar you paid, only sixteen cents will come back to Ventura.  Again the vast majority was already earmarked for State and County government.

Because we are an old city, our sewer systems, our water systems, our roads and sidewalks, and our buildings need costly attention.  Like our historic pier, the City of Ventura has unique features that require maintenance, care and funding, from keeping our fire stations open and providing life-saving paramedic response, to protecting our waterways from pollution.  One solution is to pass a local sales tax where every penny will stay in our community to maintain the services Venturans want and need.  A modest ½ cent local sales tax, where every penny stays in our community to meet local needs, would go a long way to making sure our city is prepared for a disaster and to maintaining critical city services.  An added plus is that tourists and travelers will all contribute to making our city strong as Venturans create a local funding source now and for generations to come.

Breeze: The City Council would need to vote to place a tax increase measure on the ballot.


Ventura City Council to ask voters to increase taxes – again
By Venturans for Responsible and Efficient Government (RES PUBLICA)

On April 14, 2015, the City Council directed the City Manager to conduct a “community survey” for a fee of $38,000.  They did that and spent your money for a poll.

The paid consultant, of course, was available to provide the needed education to attract more voters at a cost of $80,000.   The Council again voted to spend your money because you need “education”.

The poll that the City of Ventura commissioned asked if the citizens would be willing to support a tax increase, if it provided:

protection of local water supplies
keep all fire stations open
protect local beaches, rivers and coastal waters from pollution
maintain and improve fire, police and paramedic emergency response
maintain essential city services
improve services for seniors, the disabled and veterans

Past City Councils have relied upon poor surveys and have lost elections both times.

Ventura has a new Mayor his desire to tax the citizens of Ventura is partly because taxes are lower than Los Angeles. However, more tax money is being sold to Venturans under the disguise of “keep funds local”.

Several of poll items, such as water supply, rivers, beaches, seniors, disabled and veterans are already paid for by county, state and federal agencies.

The Ventura Water Department, independent of the city general fund, maintains our water system with the recent 34% increase in water rates over that last two years. Ventura has the funds for our aging water system.

The pier has over one million dollars in the “pier fund” for repairs. The pier is protected with an insurance policy that calls for a $100,000 deductible for each major occurrence. Therefore, no sales tax dollars is needed for the pier.

Over the last 2 years, the City of Ventura property taxes have increased by 4.0%. Also over the same two years, the City of Ventura sales tax revenue has increased by 9.5%. Therefore, revenues for the City of Ventura have continued to rise.

The real reason more taxes are being suggested is in 2015/2016, after the employees’ contributions, the City owes another $16,079,104 for retirements. This is an increase of $1,017,581 over last year.

Our Mayor’s own words from his 2013 campaign:

1) Asked how pay for to improve streets, public safety, and water resources… he said: “By growing the economy… the city must attract and retain businesses that will increase its sales tax base.”

2) Asked the role of the city is to attract a better economic vitality and he said: “The city can bring economic vitality to Ventura by keeping it safe and clean, creating a business-friendly culture at city hall, making sensible, cost-effective loans to businesses, and by promoting trade and tourism both locally and globally”.

3) The action he promised was: “As councilmember, I would like to make Focus Area 1 a top priority, bringing to the Auto Center area a destination retail establishment, like a Bass Pro Shop, and possibly a hotel to support the Players Club casino.”

In our new Mayor’s own words, economic vitality through increasing the business base is the top priority. We should keep him to his word.


To the Publisher
The Ventura Breeze

Dear Sheldon,

Let me take this opportunity to thank you for your great newspaper. My wife and I moved to Ventura about four years ago and the Breeze has not only helped us adapt to our new home, it’s entertained us along the way. We look forward to every new issue.

My reason for writing at this particular time is to comment on Mayor Nasarenko’s article in the current issue, “Ventura has a great future ahead.” I suppose it would be quibbling to comment that this is better than having a great future behind, so I’ll avoid that. The mayor’s vision for a great future includes increasing the sales tax so as to be in line with the “industry standard.” Perhaps this is a catchy way of claiming that everyone else is doing it.

I would really like to see this proposal made in a more respectful way to those who will be paying the tax. We have to pay taxes. Everyone knows this. But that doesn’t mean every tax increase is justified. If the mayor wants to raise taxes, I feel he owes it to the city to make a strong case with specifics, line item by line item, not just the feel-good generalizations he references in the article. Additionally, if he wants a tax increase in perpetuity, he should make a strong case for that.

We pay a lot of taxes; a partial list would include State and federal income taxes, auto registration fees and taxes, gasoline taxes, various disposal taxes, personal property taxes, health plan taxes, sales taxes, Social Security and Medicare taxes, phone taxes, beverage container deposit fees and sewer plant taxes.

What all these taxes have in common is that once upon a time someone thought, well, just one more little tax won’t hurt. The problem is, collectively, they do hurt. They make it more difficult for families to raise children, for seniors to get by, for Ventura retail businesses to remain competitive. If we’re going to need to put up with a higher sales tax, at least we should know why.

Dan Coverdale


Breeze:

Unbelievable!  The first announcement out of the mouth of newly appointed Mayor Erik Nasarenko of Ventura is that he will be pushing for a new sales tax on Ventura residents.  I guess it should really come as no big surprise because, of course, it’s now payback time for Nasarenko.  He received heavy support from the Ventura police and fire unions in his campaign for City Council two years ago with the understanding that he would advocate to get a tax increase measure on the ballot to beef up the police and fire budgets.  This is a clear tit-for-tat situation and is completely unacceptable.

But, the problem is people are on to these kinds of shenanigans, especially in the City of Ventura where tax increases have been placed on the ballot numerous times in the past and have failed, most recently in 2009.  What part of “no” does Nasarenko not understand?

People in this community are struggling right now to make ends meet in an economy that has seen wages stagnate over the last seven years.  Let’s not impose more suffering on them so that Erik Nasarenko can return a campaign favor he promised two years ago.  Please join me in opposing this ludicrous and unnecessary tax measure when, and if, it appears on the ballot.

Sincerely,
Mike Gibson

 

 

 

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