Merced

Merced Co. mayors come out swinging against county sales tax hike

The mayors of the six cities in Merced County aren’t holding back ammunition against a proposed ballot measure that would increase the sales tax in the county by a half-cent. 

The Merced County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote Tuesday to place the measure on the November ballot. 

If the board approves the measure and it heads to the ballot, it will require a majority vote in November to pass. 

The measure would be in place for 15 years, and county estimations project the ordinance would generate $17 million for the county annually. 

In light of the recent economic downturn due to the coronavirus pandemic, the county is proposing the ordinance to help fund essential services. 

The board’s agenda item for the proposal, the county says that it cannot rely on receiving adequate stimulus funding from the state or federal government to maintain essential services. 

“It’s important to recognize that under this proposal, funds received would be locally generated, locally controlled, spent according to spending guidelines and could not be taken by the state or federal governments,” the agenda item reads. 

“Should the board of supervisors proceed with a ballot measure like this and it be voter approved, it would provide additional revenue to enhance economic recovery and maintain essential county services and programs while improving the quality of life for the community.” 

Although the county is signaling that it needs the tax to fund essential services, the mayors in the county wrote a letter to the board of supervisors in stark opposition of the tax. 

The mayors argue that the county is simply asking for too much money – $255 million over the 15-year life of the tax. 

“Although we expect this virus to be with us for some time, there is no indication that severe impacts will be felt for 15 years,” the letter reads. “Furthermore, Merced County has already been allocated $28 million from the federal government through the CARES Act. Asking our residents for a 15-year tax to combat lost government revenues due to COVID-19 is an overreach.” 

The mayors also argued that the pandemic has strained local businesses, and the sales tax would hurt businesses further. 

“Making it more expensive to choose to do business in Merced County is the wrong approach at this time,” the letter reads. “We should be doing all we can to reduce the barriers to commerce in Merced County, not erecting new ones. This proposed tax would provide incentives for shoppers to take their business to neighboring counties.” 

The letter was signed by Atwater Mayor Paul Creighton, Dos Palos Mayor April Hogue, Gustine Mayor Pat Nagy, Livingston Mayor Gurpal Samra, Los Banos Mayor Mike Villalta and Merced Mayor Mike Murphy. 

Daniel Gligich
Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.