By Ari Bird
City News Reporter
Santa Cruz and Watsonville citizens will find their groceries costing a bit more, as sales tax jumped a quarter of a cent per dollar. This tax hike brings the sales tax to 8.25 percent in Watsonville and 8.5 percent in Santa Cruz.
This increase comes from the renewal of Measure F, which proposed a temporary tax increase in November 2006 to help address the city’s most pertinent needs. It will stay in effect until June 30th, 2009.
Mike Rotkin, a member of both the newly created Ad Hoc Revenue Task Force and the Santa Cruz City Council, explained that the money generated will be used to maintain local parks and to repair city streets.
“The longer one waits to repair the streets, the more it costs to fix them later. This kind of preventive maintenance is important before the cost goes from $44 million to double that [amount],” Rotkin wrote in an e-mail to City on a Hill Press.
Approximately one-third to half of the city streets are scheduled to be repaired over the next three summers.
Additional money raised by the tax increase will be spent on increasing public safety on the streets, a goal that will include hiring several new police officers and park rangers.
California cities originally received vast revenues from property taxes until 1978, when the state legislature passed Proposition 13 and property taxes fell sharply. California cities have since been struggling to find ways of compensating for this lost source of revenue. The City of Santa Cruz implemented a utilities tax (for landline and cell phone services, garbage services, and city water), an admissions tax (on entertainment including movies, concerts, and the boardwalk), and a 10 percent occupancy fee increase for transient stays at hotels or motels.
The tax increase does not seem to hinder enthusiastic spring shoppers as they swarm the streets of downtown Santa Cruz. Emily Franklin, a visitor from Los Angeles, tnoticed the cleanliness of Santa Cruz.
“There’s no trash, no graffitiâ€¦We’re amazed!” Franklin exclaimed as she clutched her purchases from the Salvation Army, Borders, and Logos.
She added that spending a bit more on taxes is the only way to keep the city the way it is.
Shop owners have not seen a drop in sales since the taxes have been raised. Stacy Nevin, owner of the Red Poppy boutique on Pacific Avenue, agreed with Franklin.
“Honestly, people that are shopping are going to shop anyway. They’re not going to stop over a quarter of a cent,” Nevin stated.
She concluded that people usually only acknowledge an increase in taxes when making a big purchase.
Some local residents, however, are fed up with the seemingly constant tax increases. While browsing at Bookshop Santa Cruz, Janice Ichikawa, who has been a Santa Cruz resident for 30 years, said, “I’m tired of itâ€¦All the new taxes are getting to be endless.”
But the majority of consumers seem to remain oblivious to the change, regardless of whether they are dealing with smaller or larger transactions.
Councilmember Rotkin added, “No one has said a word to me or the [Santa Cruz City] Council about it since it went into effect.”