Sales tax proposal headed to November ballot
by Joe Shreve
Aug 15, 2013 | 1208 views | 3 3 comments | 31 31 recommendations | email to a friend | print
After two days of tense and, at times acrimonious debate, the Scotts Valley City Council voted at a special meeting council on Thursday, Aug. 8 to move forward with a plan to ask voters to grant an 8-year, half-cent sales tax increase to offset the dire deficit situation faced by the city.

Any proposal required a unanimous vote of the council before it could be submitted for the ballot of a special election, scheduled for Nov. 5.

The vote was originally supposed to be taken at the council’s normally scheduled Wednesday, Aug. 7 meeting, but councilmembers reached an impasse over the number of years to propose the tax increase for, which led to the special meeting the following evening.

Four of the five members of the council — including Mayor Randy Johnson and Vice Mayor Jim Reed — lobbied for the proposal to span no longer than 7 years, arguing that a shorter tax increase would be more palatable to voters.

“I think we’re in such a pickle right now that we can’t run the risk of people saying no,” Reed said. “There are so many things that could go sideways in this city if the voters say no.”

Councilwoman Stephany Aguilar was the lone dissenter going into Thursday’s meeting, positing that that a longer half-cent tax, followed by a permanent quarter-cent sales tax increase, would better serve the city in the long run, rather than repeatedly appealing to voters during crises.

“We’ve played this game before,” Aguilar said. “We need to be a little more transparent to the community and let them know the issues — you’re not going to be able to use a Band-Aid on a burst carotid artery.”

Councilwoman Donna Lind said that the need to resolve the city’s deficit was dire, and if it wasn’t done quickly, “the services we’ve come to enjoy in Scotts Valley” were likely to suffer.

“Every cost-cutting measure we can find — there was nothing left (to cut),” Lind said. “I feel like we’ve got employees we’re going to lose if we don’t move quickly.”

Scotts Valley Police Department Chief John Weiss — along with his predecessor Steve Walpole — appealed to the council to reach a compromise.

Weiss said that the perceived financial instability of the city could lead to further staff losses, as the city’s trained officers are lured elsewhere by more competitive salaries.

“We’re limping along right now,” Weiss said. “This is very stressful for the men and women of the police department.”

Thursday’s debate went on for about an hour before the council finally reached a compromise, settling on the 8 years.

“I’m hopeful that this (compromise) will get us through a rough time,” Johnson said.

Councilman Dene Bustichi, echoed Johnson’s statement, adding that the challenge would now be in convincing voters to support the proposal.

“I think it’s always good for a council to have their feet held to the fire a little bit,” Bustichi said. “For right now, what we’re saying is we need some help, but I don’t think we should need help forever.”

Reed expressed his concern that the proposed 8-year life of the tax increase was risky, and likened it to “playing Russian roulette with the city’s future.”

“I worry it’s too long and that we might not make it through (a vote),” Reed said. “If we get told ‘no’ we can’t expect to go back and get a different result.”

- To comment, email reporter Joe Shreve at, call 438-2500 or post a comment at

Comments-icon Post a Comment
Irresponsible mgmt
August 23, 2013
Stephanie is the only one on the council with the guts to tell things straight. A short term hike won't fix the problem. If you take away the reserve that was created by measure c, the city has been running at a deficit for more than 10 years. At this point one of two things need to take place. Either the City needs to significantly curtail its aggressive spending habits or it needs to make the sales tax hike permanent. You can't honestly blame the financial problems of Scotts Valley on the state. Scotts Valley has been on an irresponsible spending spree for years.
August 21, 2013
What a bunch of crap. Measure C just expired and Stephanie wanted to ask voters to vote to extend it. Reed said everything is fine and we don't need that. Now they say we do need it. Which is it? These people don't seem to know what they're doing. I'd like to see a breakdown of where the money goes and why they need more. Let's have some transparent government and post the budget list in the Banner so we can all see it. They keep trying to scare us saying we'd lose "escential city services" Like it's going to turn into the old west with lawlessness and no police. I'm tired of these people. Some of them have been on the city council for decades. Time for new blood.
August 22, 2013
the budget s on the city website and i agree with you in one regard Stephanie has been on the council way to long time for her to move on

We encourage your online comments in this public forum, but please keep them respectful and constructive. This is not a forum for personal attacks, libelous statements, profanity or racist slurs. Readers may report such inappropriate comments by e-mailing the editor at