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County to Propose Minor Sales Tax Increase

Measure will be on November Ballot
SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF.—Today, the County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors approved the first reading of an Ordinance (Ordinance No. NS. 7.13) that would ask voters to increase sales tax by one-eighth cent in November, increasing the local tax rate from 8.375% to 8.5%.  The Board will review the matter at its August 7th Board meeting, when it comes up for second reading. If the measure is approved by voters, revenues collected from the proposed one-eighth cent general purpose sales tax could be an estimated $500 million over 10 years. The sales tax would go into effect April 1, 2013, and sunset in 10 years.  
“The County must take steps to ensure its own destiny,” said President George Shirakawa, Board of Supervisors. “We have struggled for 10 consecutive years with substantial budget reductions to services and programs, and faced with uncertain funding from the state and federal government, we have to look to a sales tax to continue critical services to the community.” 
To meet the continuing fiscal challenges and position the organization to respond to current needs as well as those of the future, the County of Santa Clara has created the Center for Leadership and Transformation (CLT) program.  The CLT will drive the change that needs to take place in the organization to find new and more efficient ways to deliver excellent services.
The goal of the CLT is to empower employees to look at their jobs differently and initiate changes that will improve performance in a material way. To date, the 39 CLT teams that are currently working have created over $400,000 in ongoing savings and over $1 million in one-time savings, as well as numerous client and customer service improvements. As this effort spreads to more employees within the organization, horizontally and vertically, more savings and customer satisfaction results will be achieved and reported.
In addition, last year, County employees and labor unions gave up wages, salaries, and benefits valued at $75 million in ongoing savings.
“Moving forward with a one-eighth cent sales tax is the next logical step following tough choices we’ve made over the past few years,” said Supervisor Dave Cortese. “The County has established a willingness to be fiscally responsible, clearly demonstrated by the great strides we’ve made to tighten purse strings and the $75 million in concessions made by County employees.”
Despite a decade of budget reductions and declining State and Federal revenues, the County
of Santa Clara has worked to provide a healthy quality of life for residents, including underserved communities who are especially vulnerable during difficult economic times.
“Right now, it’s unclear what state and federal government funding issues and the Supreme Court ruling on healthcare reform are going to do regarding services that are critical to our community,” said County Executive Jeffrey V. Smith. “The question really is whether voters in Santa Clara County want to exercise self determination and ensure the current level of services or even increase services in a number of ways for the health and welfare of the community as it has demonstrated in the past.” 
The measure, approved in a 4-1 vote (Supervisor Mike Wasserman dissenting), will be placed on the November 6, 2012, general election ballot, and if approved, would be used as County General Fund revenues that are unrestricted in their use and can be applied to any and all County governmental purposes such as:
·         Trauma and emergency services, including the Burn Center, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and a level I Trauma Center at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.
·         Preventive health programs including prenatal care, pediatric care, obesity prevention, and diabetes care.
·         Public safety services including fire and Sheriff.
·         Economic development programs to support job creation in Santa Clara Valley.
·         Disease prevention programs to stop the spread of tuberculosis, syphilis, HIV and other diseases.
·         Housing for homeless children and families.
·         Dental care, mental health, and drug and alcohol treatment.
·         Emergency preparedness.
“I can’t support the proposed sales tax,” said Supervisor Mike Wasserman. “State and local taxes are already so high and I’m afraid that an additional tax burden could drive residents and businesses out of the area.”
The Board requested the administration report back at the August 7 meeting with additional information on specific County services that would receive funding from the proposed one-eighth cent sales tax, as well as how the current economic and employment outlook will affect the County.
“We are reduced to this ridiculous tax situation that began with Proposition 13,” said Supervisor Liz Kniss.  “We are totally dependent on ourselves and have to tax ourselves locally to support services that we as a community believe are valuable to the welfare of our valley.”
The matter will be on the agenda of the August 7, 2012 Board meeting, which would be the last opportunity for the Board to finalize its vote to place a measure on the November ballot before the August 10 deadline.
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Media Contact:   Gwendolyn Mitchell/Laurel Anderson,  Office of Public Affairs (408) 299-5119
Posted: June 26, 2012