The Angels Camp City Council voted 5-0 Tuesday night to direct staff to prepare a ballot measure for voters to decide in November whether to increase the local sales tax a half-cent, from 7.25 percent to 7.75 percent.
City staff now hope to have a ballot measure ready to present to the council by May 1. To get the sales tax increase measure on Nov. 6 ballots, city staff must meet a Calaveras County elections deadline in late June.
About 30 people attended the Tuesday night meeting at Joe Carley Memorial Fire House. Angels Camp is home to about 3,200 residents and it is the only incorporated town in Calaveras County.
The move by Angels Camp elected leaders came about eight hours after the county Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 in San Andreas to spend $23,500 on a consultant to do polling, outreach and education, in advance of putting a ballot measure to voters in November to boost the county’s current visitors tax from 6 percent to 10 or 12 percent.
All five elected members of the Angels Camp council – Scott Behiel, Joseph Oliveira, Amanda Folendorf, Linda Hermann and Veronica Metildi – were present and voted for preparing a sales tax increase ballot measure.
Folendorf, who is serving as mayor this year, emphasized that the council did not vote to approve a sales tax increase. She underscored that the council voted to put the question of a possible sales tax increase to voters, so that voters can decide.
Mike Sargent, the Angels Camp interim finance officer with the city since mid-January, made a presentation on projections that assumed a cost-of-living increase of 3 percent and no increase in the city’s population for 2018-19.
Before the meeting, city staff asked council members to consider two different tax increase measures to put to voters: a half-cent increase in the city’s sales tax, and a 2 percent in the city’s visitors tax, from 10 percent to 12 percent.
City staff recommended the council should move forward with the sales tax increase measure, a point emphasized by City Attorney Doug White.
Debbie Ponte, the former Calaveras County District 4 supervisor who now leads Destination Angels Camp Development Corporation, a nonprofit, public-private partnership with the City of Angels government, spoke up in favor of the sales tax increase.
“We’re dipping into our general fund and we’re dipping into our reserves and we shouldn’t do that anymore,” Ponte said. “If we do we’ll approach becoming a bankrupt city. People who live here want a police department. People want a fire department. . . . Our tax dollars are supporting other communities and it’s time for this to stop. On behalf of Destination Angels Camp, we support this tax measure.”
Eads recently reported to the council that for the past three years their government has approved structural general fund budget deficits totaling more than $680,000. Actual general fund deficit spending from 2014-15 to 2016-17 totaled more than $522,000.
The current Angels Camp budget, approved in November, spends more than $12.7 million.
Mike Fullaway, owner of Calaveras Lumber in Angels Camp and Sonora Lumber in Sonora, stood to tell the council during public comment on the tax ballot measure that he supports having law enforcement in Angels Camp.
Council member Oliveira said before he and his peers voted that he was a little nervous about possibly putting two different ballot measures to voters.
No one at the Tuesday night meeting spoke out against raising taxes. Several people in downtown Angels Camp voiced opposition to and questioned the need for any kind of tax increase in interviews with The Union Democrat last week.
City staff received no written comments about the proposed tax increase ballot measures before Tuesday night’s meeting, Susan Wenger, deputy city clerk, and Melissa Eads, city administrator, said Wednesday.
Eads was cautious Wednesday about whether Angels Camp residents and business owners will support the council’s decision to move forward on the sales tax increase ballot measure.
“At this time I can not predict the community’s level of support for or against the item,” Eads said in an email. “I look forward to the opportunity to continue the work within the community to educate and inform on all city issues and opportunities and receive their input and goals.”
According to city staff, Angels Camp retains 1 percent of current 7.25 percent sales taxes collected. The rest goes to Calaveras County and the state of California. A half-cent sales tax increase to 7.75 percent would raise about $400,000 in revenue annually for the government of Angels Camp, according to city staff estimates.
Contact Guy McCarthy at email@example.com or 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.