Voters in Contra Costa County, and three of its cities, approved new sales taxes or increases of existing taxes — tax measures local electeds say are all the more important because of the economic ravages the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to local budgets.
Based on semi-official election night totals in Contra Costa County, which operates its own hospital and health care program that has been stretched thin by the pandemic, voters approved Measure X, a countywide half-cent sales tax measure, by a 58.7 to 41.3 percent margin.
The measure will raise an estimated $81 million each year for 20 years to fund county hospital operations and community health centers, fire and other emergency responses and various social safety-net services. County supervisors have made it a point to say that no specific recipients have yet been designated to receive any Measure X funding.
In Concord, Measure V appears to have been approved by a narrow margin (51.08 percent voting yes). It will increase the existing local sales tax from one-half to 1 percent. It is an extension of Measure Q, a half-cent sales tax first approved by Concord voters in 2010, at a time the Great Recession had decimated city budgets, including Concord’s. Local voters extended Measure Q, at a half-cent, in 2014.
Concord’s overall sales and use tax rate will rise from 8.75 percent to 9.25 percent.
The financial situation in Concord, as in many other cities, has taken a big hit from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Concord City Council earlier this year cut the 2020-21 general fund budget by $10.5 million from original estimates, cut 36 jobs and cut managers’ pay.
Orinda’s Measure R, approved by 62.45 percent of Orinda voters Tuesday, will increase the current local sales tax from a half-cent to 1 cent for 20 years, raising an estimated $2.4 million per year for essential services including wildfire prevention, disaster preparedness, storm drain repair and street maintenance. Orinda’s overall sales tax rate would go up from 8.75 to 9.25 percent.
In San Pablo, 78.85 percent of voters approved Measure S to extend the city’s half-cent sales tax for five years, after which time it would go down to a quarter-cent for the five years after that. San Pablo officials estimate the tax raises $1.45 million a year at the 0.5 percent rate, and would raise $725,000 a year at the 0.25 percent rate for the general fund.
All of the sales tax measures required a simple majority vote to pass.