Near bankruptcy, Westminster puts sales tax extension on November ballot
Following mounting pressure from residents to deal with Westminster’s impending bankruptcy, city councilors finally voted on August 12 to submit a proposal to extend the city’s 1% sales tax – which has been deeply contested on stage for the past two years – in the November election.
The 4-1 approval vote for the SS measure – with Councilman Tai Do abstaining – came at the last minute since the day was also the deadline for new measures to appear on the ballot.
If voters approve the renewal of the sales tax, which was originally due to expire at the end of this year, it will be extended for another 20 years.
According to official estimates, the sales tax has raised $81.5 million since 2016. The city is expected to declare bankruptcy by 2024 without the tax revenue.
The city’s annual deficit is expected to reach $5 million by the end of the year, according to Councilwoman Kimberly Ho.
Financial difficulties will likely lead to a 33% reduction in the city’s police force, a lack of maintenance of basic infrastructure in some districts, a reduction in city staff and the elimination of services for young people and the elderly. , among other issues, according to city staff.
Many residents worried that some councilors would be hesitant or hesitant to vote on the issue earlier this year.
“[The councilors’] failure to act literally caused our city to crumble,” city resident Sheila Grimes told The Epoch Times after the council’s approval vote. “There is no other way to get this kind of income otherwise. At least we can finally vote ourselves.
Two days before the approval vote, the council hit an impasse at a special meeting, where three of the five councilors – Charlie Nguyen, Do and Mayor Tri Ta – voted against the proposal, which requires four vote to put the measure on the ballot.
“If we don’t, soon there won’t even be [a measure] to vote,” a resident told council at the special meeting, referring to the possibility of the city collapsing financially without the sales tax.
Ta said he voted in 2016 for the tax to be a temporary fix, but has now changed his mind after hearing from residents. The first Vietnamese-American mayor elected in the United States in 2012 is currently a candidate for the State Assembly.
While the question is now up to voters, a 2021 poll by a local political advisory group found more than 70% of residents in favor of renewing the sales tax, up from 60% in 2020.