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Smart Voter
Santa Cruz County, CA November 2, 2010 Election
Measure H
Utility Tax to Include Changes In Technology and Laws
City of Santa Cruz

Majority Approval Required

Pass: 13,942 / 63.26% Yes votes ...... 8,096 / 36.74% No votes

See Also: Index of all Measures

Results as of November 30 2:51pm, 100.00%% of Precincts Reporting (36/36)
Information shown below: Official Information | Impartial Analysis | Arguments |


To preserve the safety and quality of life of the City of Santa Cruz through City services--including law enforcement, fire protection, emergency medical response, park maintenance and youth programs--and to ensure that all taxpayers are treated fairly, shall the City's existing utility users tax be broadened to include changes in technology and laws, and increased by 1.5%, while including protections for low-income residents and seniors, and ensuring that all funds remain local?

Official Sources of Information

Impartial Analysis
Pursuant to Chapter 3.29 of the Santa Cruz Municipal Code, since 1984 City residents have paid a utility users tax on telephone, electricity, gas, cable television, water, sewer, and trash collection service. The current tax rate is 7% of the amount charged for each of these services. If this measure is adopted by the voters, the tax rate would increase to 8.5%. The 8.5% tax rate could not be increased without voter approval. Post 1984 technology has rendered the City's telephone tax less effective in taxing communication services that have to a significant extent replaced traditional telephone service during this period. Unless precluded by federal law, this measure would update the City's existing telephone tax to apply to all types of telecommunication, video communication, text messaging, and paging services in addition to the telephone, cellular telephone and voice over internet protocol ("VOIP") services which are already taxed. This measure does not apply to digital downloads (e.g., games, ringtones, music and books). Federal court decisions in other states have recently created a concern as to whether the City's ordinance, as currently written, can be properly applied to long distance, cellular, VOIP and bundled telephone services. Should an adverse decision be reached that is controlling in California, the revenues collected from the City's current telephone tax might be substantially reduced. This measure would revise the current ordinance language so as to address this concern and thereby strengthen the ordinance, thus serving to protect the City from such a potentially adverse ruling. The current ordinance contains a limited exemption in connection with its gas and electricity tax only; the first $34 paid each month for this utility by certain low income individuals is tax exempt. This measure would authorize the City Council to extend tax exemptions to other economically vulnerable residents including senior citizens and would allow the City Council to apply such exemptions to other utilities taxed under the ordinance besides gas and electricity. This measure pertains to a general tax meaning that all new tax revenue would be deposited in the City's General Fund and be available to the City to pay for the provision of general municipal services to City residents including police, fire, emergency medical response, parks and recreation, and youth services. This measure requires a simple majority "yes" vote for approval.
s/ John Barisone City Attorney

  News and Analysis

Santa Cruz Sentinel

Partisan Information

Santa Cruz Sentinel

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Arguments For Measure H Arguments Against Measure H
Santa Cruz needs Measure H to ensure that public safety services + police, fire and emergency response + are fully staffed to meet community needs. This is a challenging time for Santa Cruz, with serious public safety concerns affecting all areas of our City. Santa Cruz residents have made it clear: Safety is a community priority. We need fully staffed police and fire services for safety in our neighborhoods, downtown, business districts, parks and schools. The City has struggled to fund basic services over the past decade. It understands the need to continually reexamine City services and how they're provided. It has already eliminated over 100 positions, cut millions of dollars and streamlined operations. It has proactively taken steps to increase the tax base, and employee pensions are being reviewed ... but revenue shortfalls persist. Police and fire services account for nearly 2/3 of the City's General Fund expenses and they, too, have suffered cuts. This year, several public safety positions were funded by temporary grants + but these positions cannot be sustained if revenues do not keep up with costs. Measure H will provide stable funding for public safety. It will make a real difference! Measure H calls for a modest increase in the City's existing utility tax, and updates the ordinance to reflect modern technology so all residents are treated fairly. The added cost to a typical household will be about $5/month, with exemptions for low-income residents and seniors. The City Council has pledged that Measure H revenues will fight crime and gangs plaguing our community...and all Measure H revenue will stay here in the local Santa Cruz economy. Our community faces a stark choice: we can risk cuts in public safety or we can take action. Join us making safety a priority for Santa Cruz. Vote YES on H.
s/ June Hoffman Co-owner, Hoffman's Bistro Past President, Downtown Association
s/ Rick Martinez Deputy Chief, Santa Cruz Police Department
s/ Michael Bethke Neighborhood Advocate
s/ Neal Coonerty 3rd District Supervisor, Santa Cruz County

Rebuttal to Arguments For
VOTE "NO" on Measure H---It will increase all of our utility taxes FOREVER!

  • NO ACCOUNTABILITY: Over 21% permanent increase will be going to the General Fund. Measure H rewards failed leadership and the City Utility Tax amount will keep escalating as our utility bills grow.
  • NO TRUST: Council Members gave priority to funding highly-paid employees---instead of adequately funding our Public Safety. 164 City of Santa Cruz workers were paid over $100,000 last year alone! Examples of City of Santa Cruz payment by position in 2009 are: $ 214,921.37---Fire Battalion Chief $ 205,749.54---City Manager $ 200,013.73---Chief of Police $ 183,913.15---Fire Division Chief $ 182,273.21---Asst. City Manager $ 180.736.53---Deputy Police Chief $ 176,144.39---Public Works Director $ 175,901.87---Water Dept. Director $ 164,356.15---Parks & Rec. Director $ 162,871.89---Redevelopment Dir. $ 159,420.75---Police Sergeant $ 158,216.53---Human Resource Dir. $ 158,031.86---Planning Director $ 154,042.59---IT Director The above pay-table excludes taxpayer-funded pension benefits! There are still no credible guarantees that any of the increased utility taxes will be used to reform this problem. Can we trust them again?
  • NO "FAIR" TREATMENT: Measure H will tax a growing number of new & future technologies. Some of these include, mobile phones, pagers, future types of TV, self-generated electricity (like solar panels), and even certain emergency and essential medical alert services!
  • NO EXEMPTIONS: Contrary to the Ballot Question, there are no exemptions in this Ordinance for Senior Citizens. Read it carefully... Low-income residents are not exempted either! Visit: for more information or call 430-2053. VOTE "NO" on Measure H

s/ Bernice Robertson Community Volunteer, Jefferson Award Receipent
s/ Sean Patrick Tario Co-Founder, Santa Cruz Geeks
s/ Gina Locatelli Downtown Business Owner, Past President, Boys & Girls Club of Santa Cruz
s/ Aldo Giacchino Westside Community Activist Senior Coaliton
s/ Tom Walsh, Executive Director
VOTE "NO" on Measure H
  • NO Real Guarantee...increased City Utility Taxes would be for the "General Fund" and legally do not have to be spent on our unmet Public Safety needs.
  • NO Sunset Clause...the 8.5% utility tax rate will be with local residents forever. The City of Santa Cruz imposes one of the highest utility tax rates in the State.
  • NO Senior Citizen Exemption...despite statements to the contrary, there is no Senior Citizen and/or Disabled Person relief from this regressive utility tax.
  • NO not "all taxpayers treated fairly"...High-end Corporate utility users are given huge rebates annually, and UCSC doesn't pay for its fair share of utility tax either.
  • NO Government Pension Reform...will the over 21% increase in all city utility taxes really be used for additional pay, pension and employee benefits? Do you Trust future City Councils to not squander these precious utility tax funds? This is the worst possible time to hike taxes. In the past, the City Council has been reckless in not adequately allocating sufficient funding for public safety. There are still no binding guarantees that the increased utility tax funds will be used as promised. Why is there no written definition of "seniors" in the proposed utility tax ordinance? With prices continuing to rise in this bad economy, and no official increase in Social Security, fixed-income Senior Citizens would be unfairly penalized. Disabled, low-income and needy folks are most at risk in our community with this regressive tax increase. Save over 21% on all your utility bills. Please think of our most vulnerable citizens first. VOTE "NO" on Measure H Thank you.

s/ Kevin Moon 5th Generation Santa Cruzan Senior Coalition
s/ William "Bill" Prouty, Board Member
s/ Helen Lynch 34-year Eastside Santa Cruz Resident
s/ John A. Mancini Trustee, Santa Cruz Law Library
s/ Robert Antonio Vallerga Disabled Senior, USAF Veteran

Rebuttal to Arguments Against
Don't be misled by opponents who are pursuing a political agenda without regard for our community's safety. It's a shame the opponents dress themselves up as protectors of needy residents... and then play word games to mislead you. It's a bigger shame that they ignore our immediate need to take on gangs and violence. Violence and crime in Santa Cruz deserve serious attention + not political games. YES - Measure H is about public safety. This measure pays for eight new police officers to patrol our neighborhoods and downtown, and for related prevention programs. YES - There are provisions for two ways to "sunset" this measure. The tax rate can be lowered by vote of the City Council at any properly noticed meeting. And citizens of the community can act to repeal or lower the tax at any election. YES - There will be senior and low-income exemptions to the tax. The opponents got it backwards. Currently, seniors aren't exempted from utilities taxes. Passing Measure H is the only way that all seniors can get this break. YES - Taxpayers are treated fairly. Under State law, the City cannot charge this tax to UCSC or any other public school. YES - Reductions have been made, but now our safety is at stake. The City has eliminated more than 100 positions and is dealing with pension costs. Today, our safety is the issue. For about $5 a month, your family can put more police on our streets. Vote YES for public safety and a healthier community.
s/ George "Bud" Winslow Past President, Seniors Council
s/ Karen Darling Retired Innkeeper Past President, Democratic Women's Club
s/ Peggy Dolgenos Local Technology Business Owner
s/ Emily Reilly former Mayor of Santa Cruz
s/ Jeremy Neuner Co-founder, NextSpace

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