Voters in Santa Clara County may be asked to approve a one-eighth-of-a-cent boost in the sales tax this November.
Currently, retail transactions in the county are subject to a tax of 8.375 percent.
The Board of Supervisors, which voted 4-1 June 26 to place the tax increase on the Nov. 6 ballot, approved revised ballot language to the tax measure Wednesday, Aug. 1. Final approval is expected at the board's Aug. 7 meeting.
Supervisor Mike Wasserman of Los Gatos cast the dissenting vote.
In support were supervisors Liz Kniss of Palo Alto, Dave Cortese of San Jose, George Shirakawa of San Jose and Ken Yeager of San Jose.
After 10 consecutive years of substantial budget gaps, "the county, in effect, exhausted its strategies to avoid steep reductions to direct services, and we may no longer enjoy robust growth in property tax revenues that have sustained county programs over the past 30 years," a staff report said.
The county executive's 2013 budget message depicts "significant threats on the expense side of the budget, including paying down unfunded liability for retiree health, increased CalPERS (employee pension) costs and concessions yet to be negotiated with open bargaining units," the report said.
County retiree health costs have been funded at 50 percent of the normal cost in recent years, according to the report. For fiscal year 2013, the county funded 100 percent of normal cost ($72.2 million), but only 75 percent of it with ongoing funds. The plan for future years is to fund 100 percent of the normal cost with ongoing resources so the unfunded liability of $1.6 billion does not grow larger, the report said.
The county still must negotiate $15 million in concessions with bargaining units in order to achieve the $75 million in total salary and benefit savings built into the 2013 budget, the report said.
Arguing in support of the ballot measure June 26 were representatives of United Way of Silicon Valley, the Valley Medical Center Foundation and the Santa Clara County Democratic Party, among others.
One-fifth of families in the county earn less than a "self-sufficiency" income of $54,000 for a family of four, said Wendy Ho of United Way.
"There's a huge need for county services in this economic downturn," Ho said. "People are relying on the county safety net more and more."
The San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce opposed the ballot measure.
"The business community believes that it is critical that the county address the fiscal issue of long term, sustainable pension and benefit reform before seeking any increased tax revenues from the businesses and residents of Santa Clara County," Chamber President and CEO Matthew R. Mahood stated in a letter to the chairman of the supervisors.