No Other Option- Why the Chamber Supports Measure L
It’s almost unheard of that a Chamber of Commerce would be in support of a sales tax increase. However, the Lodi Chamber is supporting Measure L- the half cent sales tax proposal on the November ballot. The Chamber Board determined this position after three to four months of internal debate. We ask you recognize our Board is made up of 13 men and women who have invested hundreds of thousands- if not millions- into the success of this community. Many people reading this article either work for these men and women, use their products, or have enjoyed their hospitality and services. They believe a community is only as good as the sum of its parts. And some of our most critical parts need the community’s assistance at this time. Here are some of the objections we have heard regarding Measure L, as well as our response to them:
Why can’t the City of Lodi cut spending?
While we believe there’s always room for improvement, by comparison, the City is doing a good job at cutting their spending. Why? For most of the city’s employees, their take home pay is less than it was in 2008. The City employees now share in costs towards their benefits packages and retirement versus the City paying for them.
Why isn’t the new housing and retail developments covering the cost?
Because it is not enough. Of the property tax collected from new homes, Lodi gets 16¢ on the dollar. It is not enough to keep up with the competitive wage we need to keep our Police and Firefighters from vacating to neighboring cities. And at the same time, California voters have increased the cost of electricity passed down to our utility. California’s average electric is three times that of the national average. By example, Reno has an 8¢ kilowatt fee. Lodi’s is 16¢ and PG&E’s is 22¢. As mentioned earlier, Prop 47 released criminals back onto the street, resulting in a higher percentage of calls and crimes. California has also raised the minimum wage. Did you know that the City of Lodi has 400 part time workers? That means, by 2022, the City has to pay their part time employees $15 an hour (a 35% increase just like businesses). The City has no choice in that matter- it is a state law.
Why doesn’t the City outsource?
We’ve investigated and found that all work done for a municipality must be done at the prevailing wage. An example would be a landscape company maintaining a city park. While the landscaping company may only pay minimum wage, the city must pay them between $20-$25 an hour as that is the wage they’d pay an employee to do the same job. In this respect, the City is in the same boat as you and I. When you’re a citizen of California, the California legislature is always in your pocket.
If the revenue from the sales tax goes into the General Fund, how can we be sure it goes to Public Safety?
The answer to that is there will be a citizen oversight committee to ensure the funds collected from the sales tax increase are aimed at keeping public safety services at a level that will not allow our community to deteriorate. Our Board of Directors recognizes that their credibility is in this support, and we can guarantee that they’ll be watching.
What if we don’t pay the PERS bill?
You may be saying all these things could be fixed if we didn’t have to pay the escalated PERS, California’s pension system. Our Board is convinced there is no way the City of Lodi cannot paying the PERS bill. Like any household bill you receive, there are consequences for not paying what is owed. Furthermore, the City of Lodi cannot exit PERS without a cost estimated at $500 million. Other cities have successfully gotten out of the PERS system- however, they all have less than 10 city employees. As a $200 million a year city, PERS would not allow Lodi to pull from the pension system without the costly bill or a lawsuit. Three cities have tried to fight PERS in court, and three cities have lost.
If Measure L should not pass, we will continue to lose police officers to neighboring cities who will pay them more. It is said that the cost per citizen of Measure L would be approximately $60 per year. Now, put that on one side of a balance scale and the value of your home on the other. Without maintaining the current services, - i.e. police, fire, our parks, the library, roads, etc.-, home values will drop significantly, and our charming, beloved city would deteriorate. We all what to live in a place we are proud of, a place we feel safe and secure in, a place we can pass onto the next children and grandchildren. It is the Chamber Board’s opinion that Measure L is essential to achieving that.
Pat Patrick, President & CEO
Lodi District Chamber of Commerce