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Tax hikes receive broad support throughout SLO County 

click to enlarge GENERATING REVENUE Six of the county's seven cities put proposals to increase sales and transient occupancy taxes on this year's ballot, and all of those measures received strong support from voters early on Nov. 3. - FILE PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • File Photo By Jayson Mellom
  • GENERATING REVENUE Six of the county's seven cities put proposals to increase sales and transient occupancy taxes on this year's ballot, and all of those measures received strong support from voters early on Nov. 3.

Thousands of SLO County vote-by-mail ballots were still being counted on Nov. 4, but unofficial results from election night suggest that most cities in the county are about to get a revenue boost.

Six of the county's seven cities put proposals to increase sales and transient occupancy taxes on this year's ballot, and all of those measures received strong support from voters.

According to unofficial election results reported by the SLO County Clerk-Recorder's Office at around 11 p.m. on Nov. 3, roughly 80 percent of Pismo Beach votes counted were cast in favor of a 1 percent increase to the city's transient occupancy tax, which is charged to visitors staying hotels, RV parks, and other short-term lodging facilities. City officials say Measure B-20, which brings the tax up from 10 to 11 percent, could generate about $1 million in general fund revenue for Pismo Beach each year.

Atascadero's proposed 1 percent sales tax hike, Measure D-20, also received broad support, garnering yes votes from more than 60 percent of voters, as of Nov. 3. That came as a relief to both city and public safety officials in Atascadero, which takes in the lowest general fund revenue per capita in the county. Ron Overacker, president of the Atascadero Police Association, said the funds from the 1 percent sales tax increase will be used to make much-needed improvements to the city's public safety services, including increased staffing in both fire and police.

"We're appreciative of the community for having faith in their leadership and in their city to make that investment in their community," Overacker told New Times on Nov. 4.

While the state average calls for departments to have about 1.4 to 1.8 officers per 1,000 residents in a given community, Atascadero currently has less than one officer per 1,000. The department ran at a minimum staffing level 52 percent of the time in 2019, Overacker said in a previous interview with New Times. The Atascadero Fire Department is also falling below the national average of 1.5 firefighters per 1,000 people—the department currently has 0.6.

"The members of the Atascadero Professional Firefighters Local 3600 are greatly appreciative to the residents of Atascadero and their support of Measure D-20," Atascadero Fire Department Association President Brandon Roberts wrote in a statement to New Times. "The funding provided by this sales tax will help us to better serve our community safely and effectively well into the future."

Similar measures aimed at increasing sales taxes by 1 percent saw support from voters throughout the county. According to the county's unofficial results from Nov. 3, roughly 58 percent of voters were in favor of Paso's sales tax increase, along with 54 percent in Grover Beach, 60 percent in Morro Bay, and 60 percent in San Luis Obispo. Revenue raised by the tax increases in every city will go largely toward balancing budgets, making up for shortfalls caused by COVID-19, improving infrastructure, and meeting public safety needs.

Arroyo Grande is the only city that didn't put some kind of tax increase on its ballot. The Arroyo Grande City Council discussed putting a 1 percent sales tax hike on the November ballot at a meeting on July 14, but failed to take action on the item after Mayor Caren Ray Russom and other council members voiced concerns about increasing costs amid the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downfall. Δ

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