The Redlands Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors has voted unanimously to endorse Measure T. The Measure would impose, commencing April 1, 2021, an additional 1-percent sales tax on each dollar of taxable sales of goods in the City of Redlands, and on the storage, use or consumption in the city of goods purchased from a retailer. Measure T will be on the November 3, 2020 statewide ballot and requires approval of a majority of the City’s voters (i.e., 51%). The sales tax would be deposited into the city’s general fund to be used for general municipal governmental purposes. Although Measure T does not obligate the city to use the proceeds of the sales tax for any particular services, facilities, or programs, the use of the funds would be overseen by an independent citizens’ advisory committee and subject to a financial audit. The city’s Finance Department estimates that the annual revenue to the city generated by the sales tax would be approximately $10.7 million.
The Board’s endorsement came after a month of various meetings with proponents both for and against the measure, as well as review of all documents and arguments relating to the Measure. The Chamber’s Government Review Committee also played an extensive role in researching and evaluating the Measure.
There are several reasons for the Board’s endorsement. First and foremost, the City finds itself facing a $5.6 million deficit after budget cuts of over $10 million. Although the City has a reserve to draw from, it is projected to be exhausted in two to three years without more budget cuts. Without the passage of Measure T, it is the Board’s conclusion that quality of life in Redlands will be negatively affected. Homelessness issues, police protection, and community safety needs would suffer. Further, the current sales tax rate of 7.75 % is relatively low compared to surrounding communities. The 1-percent increase would place the City approximately in the middle of sales tax rates compared to other communities.
This endorsement, however, does come with the expectation that our City leaders will undertake a concerted effort to rein in costs and look for opportunities to generate revenue. There is, in the Board’s opinion, a true need for this Measure. However, we do not want this sales tax increase to disincentivize our leaders from making politically difficult, but necessary choices, such as addressing the costly pensions that burden our City budget. Additionally, we would hope to see a compensation review based on today’s environment, comparative to other same-sized, southern California cities, which will affect tomorrow’s pension issues.
There is never a good time for a tax increase, but the austere measures required without the passage of Measure T would create a loss for all citizens and businesses in Redlands. We endorse Measure T but hope we can also begin to address growing concerns shared by businesses and residents alike.