Wendy Riley, an Angels Camp native, has heard about a possible town government plan to raise sales tax or taxes on visitors, but she wants to know more about why local leaders think any tax increase is necessary.
“I would like more information about it in order to form an opinion,” Riley said Thursday inside the Angels Camp Post Office on Main Street. “I think taxes are high enough. We’re a one-income family.”
Riley said her husband works and she is raising their two children.
She said she wants to see where the money goes.
Linda Hermann, the Angels Camp councilperson who serves as vice mayor this year, recently told a group called Angels Camp Neighbors the council plans to vote at its April 17 meeting on whether to put a tax measure on November ballots.
Making a case
Hermann said a sales tax increase from the current 7.25 percent to 7.75 percent would raise about $400,000 in revenue annually for Angels Camp government. She also said a 2 percent increase in the tax on visitors who stay in hotels and bed-and-breakfasts would raise about $200,000 annually.
The current sales tax rate in Angels Camp is low compared to most California cities, Hermann said. The current tax on tourists who stay in Angels Camp is 10 percent, which Hermann said is “the highest amount for other cities our size.”
Angels Camp city staff, including Melissa Eads, the city administrator, recently reported to Hermann and the rest of 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.
Eads emphasized that in spite of cost-cutting measures, the Angels Camp government remains challenged to come up with revenue for planning needs, fixing and replacing aging infrastructure, “delayed internal service needs,” and postponed parks and community projects.
The city’s budget is almost $12.8 million a year.
Eads also said the city has unfunded pension liability of more than $4.7 million, pension costs expected to rise 30 to 40 percent in the next three years, and “looming potential effects of an economic downturn.”
Some people are opposed
Noreen Coca, co-owner of Firefall Jewelers on Main Street in Angels Camp since 2003, said she disagrees with any move to increase local taxes, or any other taxes.
“I already pay more taxes than you can believe. They’ve out-taxed everybody, especially small businesses,” she said.
Coca said the state of California already has the highest taxes in the nation.
“If they want small businesses to survive they need to lower taxes, not raise them,” Coca said. “How are small businesses supposed to survive?”
Lori Melville, a bartender at Gold Diggers Saloon on Main Street, is a resident of Mountain Ranch. She’s been in Calaveras County for eight years. She said she already pays enough taxes.
“We’re way overtaxed because this whole state is ridiculous,” Melville said. “We need no more taxes. It’s insane to me. It’s hard enough already to just get by.”
Jim Arlow, a resident of the Circle XX area outside Angels Camp, came in and ordered a bottle of Budweiser, and said he wants to see more accountability when it comes to local taxation. Arlow said he thinks people would be more comfortable with talk of a local tax increase if there was accountability for the way tax revenues are spent.
“You just don’t see it,” Arlow said. “You don’t see where the money gets spent. I feel like we’re enough taxes already.”
Arlow said as a resident of the Circle XX area, among the multiple tax bills he pays are separate, individual taxes or fees to Copperopolis Fire, Copperopolis Paramedics, Cal Fire and the U.S. Forest Service.
“We’re already taxed on our income at work. Then we go to the store, to the gas station, you come in here, and you pay a little more taxes each time. You get nickeled-and-dimed everywhere. And now they call taxes fees. Where does it end?” he said.
Contact Guy McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.