City of Ventura mulling new sales tax for November ballot

by Chris O’Neal

The Ventura City Council met on Monday night to discuss the possibility of adding either a half-cent or 1-cent sales tax to November’s ballot ahead of the expiration of a parcel tax at the end of the year.

The plan presented to the Council on Monday night would see the city collaborating with the Ventura Unified School District to split the tax increase evenly. The Council voted 7-0 to have City Manager Mark Watkins talk with the District in greater detail about the concept.

In 2012, voters approved a four-year parcel tax that would require a two-thirds majority vote to renew.

According to a recent survey commissioned by the city, a 1-cent sales tax would bring in $20 million a year. In the report, the city says that Ventura needs $345 million to address capital and infrastructure needs, including $6.4 million for maintenance concerns in the community and $10.9 million for services and programming.

In the same report, a survey conducted by an independent research firm commissioned by the city found that six in 10 voters say that they would support such a sales tax.

In February, Mayor Erik Nasarenko presented his case for the sales tax increase during his State of the City address. Nasarenko noted that while the city is beautiful, its infrastructure, crime and facilities need to be addressed.

Ventura voters have been fickle when it comes to tax increases, twice rejecting initiatives the last time they were proposed, the most recent in 2009. The city’s current sales tax is 7.5 percent, matching every other city in the county save Oxnard, which sits at 8 percent.

“We are indeed managing our money wisely,” said Nasarenko, adding that after the state, county and transportation get their cut, Ventura receives roughly 13 cents on the dollar in sales and property taxes.

On Monday, March 21, at the regular Council meeting, Assistant City Manager Dan Paranick projected a $700 million bill if all of the city’s needs, including police, fire, parks and capital, were to be met. The school board plans to meet on April 4 to host a public discussion on the concept.

A majority, 51 percent, must approve of any new tax in the city of Ventura. According to the poll, four in 10 would “definitely” vote yes, with 63 percent saying that they would vote for the 1-cent increase. With a 1-cent tax increase comes $20 million a year, which would go into the city’s general fund.

Currently, the city’s general fund has revenue of $99.5 million and expenditures of $98.4 million.