Proposal aims to boost economy, fight crime

Ctiy creates plan to restore vital services, reverse budget cuts

By Roxana Amparo, News Editor

“It all comes down to whether you want to lose recreational services or a few pennies a day,” Measure U campaign manager and Richmond City Council member Jim Rogers said.

Measure U is a half-cent sales tax ballot initiative that will generate revenue for Richmond’s general fund to enhance city essentials such as public safety, public health and wellness programs, city youth programs and street paving.

Rogers said there was a series of cutbacks on services, pothole repairs, libraries and other recreational services that affected the city as a whole.

If Measure U passes, it will raise Richmond’s sales tax to 9.5 percent, matching the city of El Cerrito which already approved a similar measure.

Richmond’s sale tax is currently 9 percent. The city of San Pablo and Half Moon Bay approved sales tax hikes as well.

Due to having one of the highest crime rates in the nation over the past few years — the funds will go toward increasing police and fire department staffing, making the community safer for Richmond residents.

Those who are more likely to vote “yes” on Measure U would support it if the money went toward the enhancement of police and fire services.

Finance Director James Goins said the measure would raise the money to go toward maintaining public safety, including police protection.

Voters are more likely to vote yes if the money is used to minimize crime, which ranks top of the list on a 2013 survey conducted by Godbe Research. As well, 86 percent said it is important to improve street paving conditions.

The average amount a Richmond resident will pay monthly is $2.93.
Based on a fiscal projection for the years of 2015-2016, the estimated amount of money to be raised by Richmond residents is $3,744,157.

Richmond businesses are estimated to raise $1,682,014 and non-Richmond residents and businesses $2,139,800.

The estimated amount of revenue brought in per year will be $7.5 million after the tax increase, Goins said.

Roger said, “I think people really understand what is going on. We are not trying to expand city government, we are trying to reverse budget cuts.”

Food products sold in grocery stores, prescription drugs and energy utilities, among other things, will not contain a sales tax.

Although the sales tax is for Richmond residents, most sales taxes are paid by outside visitors.
The plan is to restore vital services while reversing budget cuts, Rogers said.

With new funds for the city of Richmond, neighborhood improvements would be made, playgrounds would be built and community gardens and trees would be planted.

“Vote yes on U,” Rogers said. He supports Measure U because he said it would raise money for Richmond, some of which can be used to sustain Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo, which treats many Richmond residents.

Measure U’s fate rests in the hands of the residents of Richmond, who on Tuesday must determine how much they are willing to pay to improve the city.