The proposed tax would help with infrastructure improvements and a rainy day reserve fund, according to a letter sent by the mayor and former mayors. File photo.
In a letter addressed to the Long Beach City Council today, Mayor Robert Garcia proposed a temporary one-cent sales tax increase, to occur over the next 10 years in Long Beach.
Written in conjunction with former mayors Bob Foster and Beverly O’Neill, the letter underscores the need for additional revenue to address pressing infrastructure concerns and budget shortfalls.
"Now is the time for us to decide what kind of city we want to live in and what type of community we want to leave for the next generation," said Garcia in a statement.
According to the letter and a city release, the sales tax would initially increase by one cent, then drop to a half-cent after six years, before dissolving completely after 10 years. The aim of the tax is to help the city address a $212 million annual funding shortfall and $2.8 billion in unfunded infrastructure needs, according to Garcia’s letter to council.
According to former Director of Public Works Ara Maloyan, much of the nearly 800 miles of streets and roadways in Long Beach are rated as "fair" or "good"—a city-wide average of 63 out of a possible 100—on the pavement condition index (PCI), which rates the relative health of road surfaces. In order to bring streets in the city back up to speed and eliminate a backlog of roads in need of repair, which currently sits at 20 percent, the city will need to spend an estimated $330 million over the next 10 years.
Such needs aren’t limited to streets, buildings and parking; in December, the city council acknowledged the need for improvements to the city’s parks, marinas, underground sewage, lighting and other problem areas.
“While the City currently spends over $65 million a year on capital infrastructure, it simply is not enough to meet our needs,” wrote Garcia to council. “Many of our streets, sidewalks and alleys are in desperate need of repair. We also have a tremendous need to upgrade city water systems for conservation and storm drain systems for neighborhood protection and water quality.”
The funding would also boost police and fire staffing, to combat climbing crime rates and improve the 911 response time of public safety personnel, especially given the fact that 200 police officers were cut in the last decade. Those eliminations, coupled with pension reform and the removal of 700 other city positions, is estimated to have saved the city $250 million over 10 years, according to the letter.
A separate ballot measure was also requested, which would place the first one percent of any additional revenue gained into a rainy day fund in case of future recessions and budget deficits.
According to a survey of Long Beach residents completed by a public opinion firm, approximately 67 percent of residents likely to vote in the June Primary believe the city needs more funding, and 64 percent are likely to support the new tax. If the council approves of the new measure, a simple voting majority is required for its full approval and implementation, the letter stated.
Though survey's findings show about 64 percent of voters would approve of a permanent sales tax increase, the letter stated the mayor and former mayors found it more “prudent and responsible to have the sales tax measure end after 10 years.”
This story was updated at 3:40PM to clarify that the study of Long Beach residents was completed by a private public opinion firm.