Will a 1 percent sales tax hike help fix Chula Vista's budget crisis? It will now be up to voters to decide.
City Council members debated the issue for hours Tuesday night after hearing from dozens of residents. In the end, the council voted 4:1 in favor of putting a tax hike on the ballot. Deputy Mayor John McCann voted no.
Chula Vista resident Monica Irastorza is a mother of two children. She said she is willing to pay higher sales tax.
“No one wants to pay higher taxes, but absolutely if it's necessary, I would rather keep the police departments and fire departments employed, because we need them when we're in trouble," Irastorza said.
The South Bay city is facing a $4 million budget shortfall. Next year the deficit make exceed $20 million. City officials said raising the sales tax a penny on a dollar could generate more than $20 million a year.
Some residents, however, said the tax hike hurts businesses and low income families already struggling with the cost of living.
"The reality is a sales tax would harm jobs -- there's no doubt about it,” McCann said.
McCann has proposed alternatives, including selling city land, an idea that resident Keri Yednak disagrees with.
"We need that land to build a university and if you sell off your land you have nothing left. I mean you really need to hold on to what you have," Yednak said.
Firefighters union spokesman Steve Miller said that members reached a tentative agreement to defer cost-of-living increases for the next two years. Miller said the union will take the agreement to members for a vote. City officials are hoping to reach a similar agreement with Chula Vista police, who are still negotiating with the city.
Prior to the council vote, Miller urged the council to put the tax increase on the ballot.
“A yes vote is for public safety," Miller said. "A yes vote allows the constituents to vote their mind and vote what they want to save."
Voters will decide whether to approve the sales tax increase in a May 5 mail-ballot election.