Lemoore City Council weighs approving November sales tax measure as COVID-19 smacks city's budget

By Ed Martin, Editor
Lemoore City Hall
Lemoore City Hall

Lemoore’s city council members, most likely at their next meeting scheduled for June 16, could give the go-ahead for a one-cent sales tax measure on the November general election ballot.

The issue, brought up at the tail end of Tuesday night’s regular council meeting, highlights a city faced with declining revenue, thanks in large part to the COVID-19 crisis. Council members, all of whom seemed to warm to the idea,  could choose between a general and specific sales tax measure.

A “general” sales tax measure requires only a majority of voters (plus one) to approve the tax measure. All tax revenues go into the general budget pot. A “specific” sales tax requires that the funds go toward a specific project. A specific sales tax measure requires a 66.67 percent approval rate for a specific project.

While council members took no votes Tuesday night, several members and audience participants appeared to favor a general tax measure.

“We’ve gone back and forth on this,” said Lemoore City Manager Nathan Olson, who proposed a sales tax measure two years ago, but failed to get it off the ground.  He added that because of the COVID-19 crisis, city revenues – as have most municipalities in California – have plummeted due to a variety of reasons. “We’re at a crossroads.”

He said the budget looks bleak and suggested that the council consider a sales tax initiative for the November general election. A one-cent sales tax could generate between $1.8 to $2 million in additional revenue for the city.

The sale of fuel in Lemoore is one of the city’s most significant tax generators, and the coronavirus hit that industry hard, particularly in Lemoore. Due to budget constraints, the city has laid off six persons, and the city’s police department has implemented a hiring freeze and has lost one police officer to another department.

The idea of a sales tax seemed to resonate with council members. “I would go in the direction of a one percent general tax to sunset in seven years,” said Mayor pro tem John Plourde.

Lemoore’s most recent effort to enact a sales tax measure was about two years ago when the subject was broached at a council meeting and then quickly dismissed. But the situation has changed in 2020 as state governments and municipalities are all reeling beneath the weight of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Sales tax and bond measures in Lemoore have had mixed results.

In 2016, Kings County narrowly lost a public safety sales tax measure entitled Measure K, which narrowly lost countywide but generated big numbers in Lemoore where local voters passed the measure with 72.17 percent of the vote, an impressive figure for a county measure.

West Hills College Lemoore has passed several bond measures, resulting in a comprehensive community college. Lemoore High School passed a $24 million bond measure in 2016, but a recent March 3, $26 million bond measure failed miserably at the ballot box. The Lemoore Elementary School District also passed a bond measure in 2016.


Lemoore City Council weighs approving November sales tax measure as COVID-19 smacks city's budget

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