An extension of Pinole's utility user tax will be on the Nov. 6 ballot, the City Council decided unanimously this week. But the ballot language will not be determined until a special council meeting next week.
Council members, in particular Roy Swearingen and Debbie Long, said the proposed ballot language before the council Tuesday was confusing and too long. It would ask voters whether they want to continue the existing tax for another eight years "to fund Police Officers/Firefighters, crime investigation/9-1-1 emergency services, blight/graffiti removal, park maintenance, and other essential community services, continue the low-income/veteran exemptions, conduct annual independent audits, exercising local control over all funds, with no money for Sacramento, and without raising taxes?"
As a general tax, the Pinole levy would require a simple majority of votes to renew.
"Brevity is probably the most important thing," Swearingen said, adding that when looking at a ballot stacked with measures, as is expected in November, many voters will not have the patience to slog through thick verbiage and will simply vote no.
Long worried that a recitation of specific services to be funded by the measure would be read as an implied promise that those services would continue forever, regardless of the condition of the general fund in the coming years.
The existing 8 percent tax on gas, electric and telephone bills raises slightly more than
Unless voters continue it, a 2012-13 general fund budget of $10.9 million -- not counting $1.6 million in annual proceeds from a half-cent city sales tax that is accounted for separately -- would shrink to less than $8.9 million, forcing drastic cuts to basic services, including police and fire protection, officials warn.
Long and resident Irma Ruport chastised the city's consultant, Lew Edwards Group, for drawing up a clunky and verbose measure; City Attorney Ben Reyes had noted earlier that he had made minor modifications to the consultant's wording.
"Fire the consultant. We'll carry the ball," Ruport said.
No one from Lew Edwards Group spoke at Tuesday's meeting.
John Engle, president of the Pinole Police Employees Association, announced his union's support for the measure. No representative of the Pinole Fire Department or the firefighters union, Local 1230, spoke.
The special council meeting will begin at 6 p.m. Monday in the Pinole City Council chamber, 2131 Pear St.
Contact Tom Lochner at 510-262-2760.
What: Pinole City Council special meeting
Where: Pinole City Council chamber, 2131 Pear St.
When: 6 p.m. Monday