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Herald -- Seaside Council to Eye Utility Tax Measure

Taxpayer group gets signatures needed for repeal vote

Herald Staff Writer
Article Last Updated: 07/26/2008 01:36:33 AM PDT

A 25-year-old utility tax in Seaside may be overturned if a local taxpayers association gets its wish.

The Seaside Taxpayers Association said Friday it has qualified a ballot measure to repeal the 6 percent utility tax approved in 1983 on cable, water, phone and electricity bills. When it will be voted on is not yet determined.

The group turned in about 450 signatures to the Monterey County Elections Department this week. They needed 277 signatures of registered Seaside voters, and election officials said they had enough.

"Unfortunately, governments do whatever it takes to perpetuate the flow of taxpayer dollars, even at the expense of good fiscal judgment and truthfulness," said association chairman Eugene Lee.

Members of the 30-person group have been collecting signatures for a month to try to repeal the utility tax, going door-to-door and talking to residents at shopping areas.

Group members said they were approached by Seaside residents concerned about how utility rates have risen in recent years.

"People came to us and said, 'Do something about it,'" said spokesman Lawrence Samuels.

Mayor Ralph Rubio said repealing the utility tax could cut city services.

The utility tax generated an estimated $2.6 million — 10 percent of the city's general fund — during the 2007-08 fiscal year that ended June 30. City officials say they expect about the same amount this year.

"We are going through some troubles with the state budget, and we don't know what we are going to have left," Rubio said.

"If you take out funding from the city of any kind (it) would be a detriment (to) the citizens of Seaside," the mayor said.

The utility tax measure will test Seaside voters' attitude toward city spending for the second time in recent elections.

In February, city voters approved a 1 percent sales tax by a 58 percent to 42 percent vote. The tax is initially expected to generate about $3 million a year. The city's annual operating budget is around $20 million.

Rubio said it wouldn't make sense to pass the sales tax, and then repeal the utility tax.

Money from the utility tax is largely used for public safety, and the rest is distributed among recreation, public works and administrative costs, Deputy City Manager Jill Anderson said.

The City Council will hold a special meeting at 6 p.m. Monday to discuss the utility tax measure. It could be put on the November ballot, if the council completes its work by Aug. 8. Otherwise, a special election would have to be held.

Clarissa Aljentera may be reached at 648-1171 or

Seaside Taxpayers Association, P.O. Box 1172, Seaside, CA 93955 –

Last Updated: Aug 05, 08

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