LODI, Calif. -- Lodi voters cast ballots in favor of raising city sales tax 1/2 cent. The ballot totaled 57 percent for and 43 percent against, with 6,103 yes votes to 4,619 no.
Those in favor of a Lodi sales tax said it's needed to fund city services. Those who oppose it said money raised will go to fund rising pension costs for city retirees.
"It's a very, very rare occurrence when a chamber of commerce weighs in 'yes' on a sales tax increase," said Pat Patrick, President/CEO, Lodi Chamber of Commerce.
The ballot measure calls for an increase of a half-cent sales tax. The current sales tax is 7.75 percent. The city says it will raise $5.4 million in annual revenue.
Backers of Measure L say the money will go towards hiring more police officers, increasing the staffing of the fire department, continuing or expanding Homelessness Intervention Programs, funding street repairs and maintenance of roads, improving parks and recreation areas and keeping the Lodi Public Library open at six days a week.
"We are to the point in Lodi that we have to protect property values, as well as our public safety," added Patrick.
Mike Carouba is a Lodi real estate broker who is the co-chair of the "Yes on Measure L" committee.
"Crime is up and the ability to fight crime and other services have been constrained. Resources are further depleted. It's become clear to the business community, I think broadly speaking, that this would be a good investment in Lodi," said Carouba.
Two years ago, voters defeated a quarter-cent sales tax measure on the ballot. The Chamber of Commerce, representing business owners, was against the sales tax then, but supports this latest version. However, those opposed paint a different picture of how the sales tax revenue will be used.
"It's pretty clear the money is just going to get spent for the pensions," said John Johnson, a Lodi businessman and financial analyst who is a treasurer for the "Committee Against Measure L."
"The story about more cops and more firefighters and more of anything just doesn't hold water. California has an unsustainable pension problem," Johnson said.
Johnson points to language in the ballot measure that does not specify how the money is to be spent and will go into the City of Lodi general fund.
The proposed ordinance language reads in part:
"This ordinance imposes a general sales tax that can be used for unrestricted general revenue purposes as specified in this ordinance. It is not a commitment to any specific project that may result in a potentially significant physical impact on the environment."
Continue the conversation with Kurt on Facebook.