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  Measure Q Allocations and a Possible Sales Tax Increase
August 18, 2005


As the Richmond City Council continues to debate a sales tax measure for the November 2005 election, several people have asked me how the funds from the previous  Ĺ% sales tax increase (Measure Q) have been allocated. Below (and attached as a PDF file) is a summary of how the Richmond City Council voted to allocate Measure Q revenues during this fiscal year.

Yesterday, the City Council met in a special session to consider what to do about placing another Ĺ% sales tax on the November 2005 ballot. Unlike Measure Q, which was initiated by the City Council, the new proposed sales tax measure was the product of an initiative campaign by citizens. Some 6,000 signatures were collected from mid-July to mid August and are currently being checked ad counted by the County Clerk. In order to qualify for the ballot, about 4,000 valid signatures are required, which is 10%of the Richmond registered voters. As of yesterday, County Clerk Steve Weir reported that with one-third checked, about 108% of the required signatures are being verified as valid, but the verification of all 6,000 will require about another week. If the current verification rate is extrapolated, the measure would have the required signatures.

Ordinarily, moving an initiative to the ballot is not a discretionary act of the City Council. However, August 12, was the deadline for submitting signatures and requesting the matter be placed on the ballot for November. Although the signatures were submitted a few days earlier and the request made by the City Council in a previous special meeting on August 12, only 10% had been verified, with a verification success of 104%, which requires a full count. There was speculation that since the signatures had not been verified by the deadline, the matter could be the subject of a later legal challenge. The law, we were told, is murky on this subject, and there are constitutional issues related to and protecting the initiative process in California.

At the meeting yesterday, the City Council was told that if there were insufficient verified signatures, the only way to get the measure off the ballot and avoid the approximately $60,000 cost of participating in an election would be a court order, which would carry some cost and the risk that the court may not grant it. Most of the five City Council members present felt that the risk was minimal and that the citizenís request via the initiative process should be honored.

Aside from the issues involving placing the new sales tax on the ballot, there has also been discussion about the concept itself. Its major proponent, Jim Rogers has stated that there are two compelling reasons for supporting it. First, there is a state mandated limitation on local sales taxes that has only Ĺ% left for Richmond. If some other regional agency moves forward with a sales tax proposal and is successful, Richmond would be foreclosed. Second, Rogers sees the sales tax as having minimal impact on Richmond citizens, particularly those with low incomes. Food and shelter are exempt from sales tax, and significant amounts of sales taxes are paid by persons who do not live in Richmond and by businesses.

Others believe that the tax would be bad for business and cite the fact that it would make Richmond the stateís highest sales tax city. Would shoppers drive to another city to save fifty cents on a $100 purchase? With high gas prices and even the IRS acknowledging automobile operation costs $0.405 a mile, thatís a good question. If someone had to drive one-quarter mile further away to find a lower sales tax, it would be  wash for a $100 purchase. Even for large purchases, like an $18,000 automobile, the additional tax would be only $90.

Goodness knows Richmond has a problem. The streets are falling apart. Blight is everywhere. We are still in a temporary city hall. Crime is rampant. Whether these problems are due to a lack of funds or due to governmental inefficiency is the question. I have requested that the administration prepare a comparison of  dozen cities similar to Richmond to find out, on a per capita basis, how their general fund expenditures in various service categories compare to Richmond. It is very frustrating for me to field complaints daily about city services and infrastructure and not be able to do anything about it because of lack of funds. If citizens want more, they can decide whether or not they want to pay for it and how.

So far, I support letting the citizens decide if they want an additional tax to support expanded and improved services. A sales tax would not necessarily be my first choice for raising revenue. Other approaches, like increasing the real estate transfer tax, a gross receipts tax, a business license tax for landlords and benefit assessment districts for special types of services or projects may make more sense. But none of them so far have been supported by the City Council or have generated a citizenís initiative. Many cities use some or all of these tax measures for revenue and are able to provide higher levels of service than Richmond and better infrastructure.

Proposal adopted by the Richmond City Council for Allocation of Measure Q (1/2% Sales Tax) Funds



Milestone 1

Milestone 2

Milestone 3


Establish new community center programs





Full time arts manager










Re-open closed fire stations





Re-establish truck company










Violence suppression unit





Intelligence/Patrol tracking unit





School resource officers





Firearm action plan










Extend main branch hours





Open two branch libraries









Incremental Total





Cumulative Total





Milestone 1 indicates minimum amount anticipated, while Milestones 2 and 3 indicate more optimistic projections