25 Years Is Too Long
The City of Ventura hopes to raise an additional $10.8 million per year from the ½¢ sales tax increase designated Measure O on November’s ballot. The average Ventura family will pay an additional $170 in sales tax, if Measure O passes. The tax will remain in effect for 25 years, generating $270 million over that time.
Considering the large sum of money Measure O will generate, voters should be cautious before voting in favor of the tax increase. There are several compelling reasons to vote against Measure O.
Consider How Long 25 Years Really Is
Measure O would be in effect for 25 years. That’s a long time. Who knows what the world will be like in 25 years?
To give some perspective on how long 25 years is, consider what was happening 25 years ago in 1991. The first commercial website launched on the Internet. The first Gulf War began. Police beat Rodney King and the incident was caught on videotape — VHS. Jeffrey Dahmer was cannibalizing people. Ventura had a General Fund of $79.9 million. California was in a draught. At the time, Ventura’s biggest concern was water.
Who would have guessed in 1991 that Ventura’s General Fund would have grown 25% to $104.9 million yet we’d have money concerns?
One fact the City Council neglects to tell voters is during the next 25 years we will have the largest wealth transfer in human history as the Baby Boomers die and pass their estates — mostly real estate — to their heirs. Why is this important? It’s important because part of Ventura’s need for money stems from Prop 13 holding down real estate prices which limits how much property taxes are paid to the City.
As heirs inherit their parent’s houses, some heirs will choose to sell the house. When they do, the home the sales price reassesses the home, also increasing the tax basis. Actuaries could easily calculate windfall in property tax income to the City based on mortality rates. No matter how you look at it, however, there will be an increase in the property taxes Ventura will receive over the next 25 years.
Shifting Priorities Over 25 Years
What’s more, there is no way to know what the City’s priorities for spending the $270 Million will be over 25 years. Ventura’s big priority in 1991 was water. Ventura had a balanced budget at $79.9 Million. Money worries didn’t exist. Profligate spending during the intervening 25 years has brought the City to a point where a $104 Million budget is insufficient and the City Council wants to raise more through Measure O.
The Council purports to use the money for a laundry list of improvements in 2016, but who knows if those will be the same priorities in 2041. Chances are they won’t be.
New Councilmembers with differing priorities will replace those members serving on the City Council today. Already one Councilmember has chosen not to seek reelection in 2016. Will subsequent City Councils be more fiscally responsible or will they continue the profligate spending that brought Ventura to where it is now?
Without earmarking the increased tax revenue for specific projects, today’s voters have no assurances they money they approve today will be spent on those priorities in the future. Earmarking the funds would require a 2/3 majority of voters to approve Measure O and, for political expediency, the City Council has chosen not to do that.
Voters Shouldn’t Give The City Council A Blank Check
Measure O should be a non-starter at the polls because it lasts too long. There is a lot of money at stake, however, so many special interest groups are lining up in favor of the measure. The City has already spent $140,000 to convince voters to approve the measure, and it may spend more in the remaining days before the election. If one examines Measure O closely, the flaws are apparent. Decide for yourself. Measure O is nothing more than a grab for more taxpayer money. Don’t fall victim to it.