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Hercules Residents Will Vote on Increase in Utility Tax this June

The increase would raise Hercules' utility users tax from 6 percent to 8 percent, and include cable in the utilities taxed, for five years.

Hercules voters this summer will decide whether to increase their own taxes to bring an extra million dollars in revenue to the city.

The Hercules City Council on Tuesday night voted 4-1 to call for a special election in June to ask voters to increase the utility users tax from 6 percent to 8 percent, and to include cable in the utilities taxed. 

If passed, the increased tax would go into effect two months after the election results are certified and sunset in five years. The ballot measure will need only a 50-percent-plus-one-vote majority to pass, because the city has declared a state of fiscal emergency.

"I think our residents in time will understand in order to provide the services that we need, we need that extra million dollars and we're not getting it from the county," Mayor John Delgado said. "So if we want those services, a tax like this is how we're going to do it from now on."

The city faces a $1.2 million budget deficit; it plugged a similar gap in this year's budget with one-time funds.

City Manager Steve Duran said if the ballot measure fails, it will be difficult to cut enough to make up that $1.2 million.

"The elephant in the room has been, how do you cut a million dollars out of a budget?" Duran said. "And the answer we keep coming back to is, given the extensive cuts to staffing we've had to this date … the only way to save that kind of money would be to outsource police to the sheriff's department and make some other cuts to our own staffing."

Smaller cuts will still be required if the ballot measure passes, he said.

Council Member Dan Romero was the sole no vote Tuesday night. He supported the tax measure, but wanted it to sunset in six or eight years. He pointed out that in three and a half years, the city's Measure O sales tax increase will expire.

"We're not going to be OK in five years," Romero said. "The loss of $500,000 from Measure O is going to hurt."

Council Member Bill Kelly also argued for a seven or eight-year measure, saying he didn't want to have to ask for another tax increase.

"I think they're probably getting ready to get their shotguns out seeing this coming now," Kelly said of residents. "We told them last year we wanted to do something and we were going to solve our problem and that didn't work."

But a majority of voters surveyed by the Lew Edwards Group do support the tax increase, the consulting firm told the council Tuesday night. That group's survey of 361 voters showed a majority of residents surveyed supported the tax increase for five years, but that majority dropped when respondents were asked about a 10-year increase.

Sixty-six percent of respondents were "more likely" to support the tax with a five-year sunset, and 51 percent were "more likely" to support it for 10 years, they said. Overall, 56 percent of respondents said they would vote for an increase.

Delgado argued it would be better to go for a shorter sunset, because of the risk associated with the measure failing. Duran said with a 2018 sunset, the council could place the measure on the 2018 gubernatorial ballot to be renewed.

"We're still in survival mode," Duran said. "We have to win or we lose big."

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Dale Wyckoff February 27, 2013 at 06:01 PM
Good grief! There's no end to it. Tax the people who opposed WalMart. They were so passionate about it they should be happy to pay the extra money.
Louise B. February 27, 2013 at 11:19 PM
Dale, you are absolutely right. And after the five years, the city will come back with another tax increase on the ballot. We have a very uninformed electorate who have very short memories. All they need do is check their property tax and utility bills but they are too lazy to do even that. Let the city go bankrupt. This should have happened a long time ago.
Chris Tallerico February 28, 2013 at 03:01 AM
Truly unfortunate that we have such a vocal bunch that bashes any business plan that they don't 100% support. I very much welcome Safeway and what ever business ends up on the old Market Hall site. I also hope a developer can be found to re-do the Creekside Center...Great location just a horrible layout....Sooooooo much potential there.
Kim February 28, 2013 at 05:41 AM
I'm with Chris. Something is better than nothing. I wanted something along the lines of Bay St as it would save me sitting in traffic but at this point I'd even take the Walmart. I told the survey people I would vote no in June but I'm considering holding my nose and voting yes. I'd really like to know they are making as many cuts as they can. Just the money they put out for the survey looks wasteful.
Phil Simmons February 28, 2013 at 04:40 PM
Chris, I find your comment to be an indictment of the problem with the land parcels you mentioned. Yes we would all like to see a Safeway, or something similar. Yes we would all like to see something on Market Hall. But you also would like to see a re-do of Creekside because it is a "Great location just a horrible layout....Sooooooo much potential there". That is exactly what underlies the motivation from the "vocal bunch" that you refer to. We would prefer not to see a repeat of Creekside and its "horrible layout" at Market Hall and Syc Cross because there is "so much potential there". Thanks for helping.
Susan D.Keeffe February 28, 2013 at 04:41 PM
Dale, Since most of the voting residents were opposed to a WalMART proposed at more than double the big box size allowed on Parcel C are you suggesting all those opposed to it should be selectively chosen to pay the tax and those who wanted the monstrous store shouldn't? The critics, including me, have always been for increased retail, more mixed use and we have NOT been opposed to Safeway! What we have been opposed to was the location of the Safeway 16 pump gas station immediately adjacent to homes. We have consistently opposed the reckless $200k lawsuit against Lucky for the Sycamore Crossing site and, as it turns out, it was completely unnecessary as a portion of that parcel is not included in the Deed Restriction area and they are now appropriately discussing that alternate location which, it is my impression, is widely supported. The critics also weren't thrilled with the City giving Red Barn the Market Hall site thus giving away any proceeds from that sale. A strip mall is now proposed by the new owners of the site. Until the City stops doing things in bits, there is no city planning. The existing plan is obviously out of date since we have our behemoth to deal with. I'm for an upscale grocery store and another gas station that does not adversely affect residents due to serious environmental impact issues. We were promised police jobs would be saved with the previous 2 measures -they weren't. There was no mention of a parcel tax dedicated to saving our police.
Phil Simmons February 28, 2013 at 04:57 PM
Dale, When Walmart came to town I opposed the type of building that it intended. I spoke both in TV news interviews and at council meetings. I recommended that Walmart create 3 smaller connected stores with facades that fit the surrounding community. I also recommended a more suitable sign, not the big blue box. The suggestions were unheard of at the time and not taken seriously. Since then Walmart has done all of the above. They now have a new fresh looking logo and sign. They have built urban style stores in some places. They have also divided into food centers, auto centers, and general stores in some locations. Of course many opposed Walmart for other reasons. What comes to mind is no labor protection for employees, harsh purchasing procedures with suppliers and partners, cheap foreign supply lines. Recall that Sam Walton's claim to fame was to "Buy American". But for me I felt then and still do now, that what was required was for Walmart to fit into the community. They could have. They did in fact bring to the table, in the 11th hour, drawings of a three unit connected building with facades that looked appropriate. To bad for them and for us that they didn't offer good ideas sooner. Walmart's failure was at least as much Walmart's fault as it was the community's.
Selina Williams February 28, 2013 at 08:43 PM
I do not shop at Safeway as a personal choice but I support other citizens desire to have one, mainly because they are a Bay Area California corporation, employing local folks at better than minimum wage. But they can do better. Service in their store is non existent and their products leave much to be desired (IMHO, but I don’t shop there so hey, ignore that!). I do not support a gas station in the middle of a residential neighborhood. Never. Ever. Prettying up WALMART is lipstick on a pig. Walmart destroys main-street and thrives on the lowest paying jobs to sell the cheapest crap, made by indentured servants in China, while getting subsidized with OUR TAXES! Hows that for free enterprise! How about, people who promote Walmart get taxed extra to pay for all the public assistance needed for Walmart employees? Hmm... I posit that the sales tax Walmart brings would be needed to offset the additional cost to provide services to Walmart's workforce. Their wage and employment policies force workers onto public assistance and into public housing to feed, cloth and house their families. For the local and national economy to grow, we need to grow good paying jobs. Not Walmart job. If you want to stop paying more taxes every year, stop subsidizing big businesses that could care less about you and yours. I support California Farmers, products made in America by American workers, the existing vendors in Creekside. I can not support WALMART. Period.
Phil Simmons February 28, 2013 at 09:33 PM
Selina, I agree with your sentiments. But for some odd reason I believe that Walmart is redeemable at least at some levels. Not sure they will ever be a Made in America company though. But who is now days?
Susan D.Keeffe March 01, 2013 at 12:19 AM
You go girl! I agree. Walmart has also been sued by some of its female employees who state they have been denied promotions because of their gender. Where WalMart turns up, smaller retailers wither and die. A Walmart was built close to where my daughter lives, the little strip mall which is closer to her and its grocery store are ready to close. It didn't take long. The Walmart at Hilltop hasn't helped the mall there. The quality of stores there is far below what it once was. I no longer shop there except for Penny's and sometimes Sears. McNellis may put up his little strip mall on the market hall site- I doubt I'll shop there unless be gets a really good anchor store, Whole Foods or Fresh Choice would be nice. Gas pumps, however, next to homes,don't work and never will.
Toni Leance March 01, 2013 at 01:37 AM
It is all very sad. As I prepare to leave Hercules ( I know some of you are applauding and others I know are truly sad) I don't think for one second that hercules is any better off than when Nelson Olivia left the building. The reform council did nothing while in office. All of the properties they tried to sell at fire sale are still in play Measure O has not and will not bring more police as promised instead the money will go to keep city staff in place and receiving big fat paycheck (look up what Duran and Mastey make ) and the current council voted to " game the system" by calling a phony fiscal emergency to give them an edge on passage and get more taxes that will not get more police simply pay city hall staff and high payed consultants. Herculeans are fools if they vote yes for this UUT tax that will get you nothing in return except a well oiled city hall I think there are a few who understand and are trying to change but not enough to make a difference. Good luck Hercules I wish I could be more optimistic but I just can't see it working out but I will watch the soap opera, as from a distance it will be entertaining.
Susan D.Keeffe March 01, 2013 at 01:55 AM
Toni, I wish you all the best wherever you may end up! But you can still watch and post! :)
Chris Tallerico March 01, 2013 at 02:12 AM
I dont know Phil...The proposed Safeway looks pretty good to me. Not much you can do with the Market Hall property other than maybe a big restaurant like Texas Road House or something similar. Regardless, I think what's being kicked around for both sites are much better than the old Creekside.
Phil Simmons March 01, 2013 at 02:23 AM
Chris, If a Texas Road House ends up at Market Hall I will buy you your first steak there, promise. Problem is I feel certain that the Creekside developers felt that what they built would stand the test of time too. Actually I like some of the design of Creekside but overall it is not the sort of area that enhances the community, long term. Following well thought out design and sustainable concepts of city planning can make the difference. It is harder to do and it takes longer, unless there is a willing developer from the start. We have neither well conceived plans nor the willing developers with what has been offered so far at Market Hall and Safeway. There is some hope that this will change.
Giorgio C. March 01, 2013 at 02:42 PM
A Walmart in Hercules would be consistent with much of what is already here. I thought people wanted to raise the standard of our community. A Walmart is not consistent at all in any way with any of the previously positive ideas proposed here. How can one protest a ginormous LED sign, yet embrace a Walmart? I visited a Walmart once. Half the stuff on the shelves was broken. Never again.
Phil Simmons March 01, 2013 at 04:21 PM
The Walmart grocery stores sell a whole lot of the same stuff that you get at Safeway and Lucky for that matter, same brands, same packaging, same old, same old. I wonder if Walmart would consider buying permanent 24/7 space on that LED sign.
Susan D.Keeffe March 01, 2013 at 06:39 PM
The sign would probably be some sort of advertisement based i. Who wants to put their name up in lights. Cheap!
Phil Simmons March 01, 2013 at 06:51 PM
Susan, I'm thinking how cool it would be to just have a "Visit The Hercules Walmart" up 24/7 Double bonus, all those tax dollars from Walmart and all the $ from the sign in one swift move. We could build city hall back to twice its size in no time at all.
Giorgio C. March 01, 2013 at 08:09 PM
The LED sign should simply read "Stop here. We have pizza."
Phil Simmons March 02, 2013 at 02:13 AM
Giorgio, A big sign for Walmart is one thing but do we really want all the highway riffraff driving into town grabbing all of our pizza?

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