The East Palo Alto City Council unanimously approved putting a 1/2-cent sales tax on the Nov. 8 ballot Tuesday night to maintain city services, according to a news release from the city.
Currently, East Palo Alto's sales tax is 9 percent. If more than half of the voters approve the "East Palo Alto Neighborhood Safety and Vital City Services Measure," they would increase the sales tax to 9.5 percent, providing the city about $1.8 million a year in new revenue, according to the city.
The general-purpose tax would generate funds to help maintain rapid police-response times and the number of police officers patrolling neighborhood streets, as well as repair streets and potholes, update drinking water and storm-drain infrastructure, enhance youth and senior programs and maintain other important city services, according to the city.
In touting the need for the extra revenues, city officials pointed to the poor conditions of local roads and sidewalks, which they estimate require about $28 million in repairs. They also pointed to the costly infrastructure projects that the city is currently pursuing, including two pedestrian and bike crossings over U.S. Highway 101; two groundwater wells; and improvements to the Runnymede outfall, which drains about two thirds of East Palo Alto's storm runoff.
While these projects are funded largely through state and federal grants, the city has to match these grants with some local funds. The required match "is straining the City's limited cash reserves," the city's announcement stated.
"Our city has over $200 million of basic infrastructure needs to address, but nowhere near the amount of revenue needed," City Manager Carlos Martinez said in the news release. "If enacted, this measure would help fund basic repairs our City desperately needs and that our residents deserve."
If approved, the tax would go into effect once the election returns are certified.
As part of the measure, an independent citizens oversight committee will be established, mandatory financial audits will be performed and yearly reports to the community will be made to ensure that the revenues "stay in East Palo Alto to support local needs," according to the city.
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