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CALIFORNIA CITY – Property owners will see slightly lower annual taxes following action by council July 23.  The council approved lowering the public safety parcel tax to $172.50 from its previous $182.50.

The tax was included on the agenda as a consent calendar item - where routine and non controversial items are grouped for approval in one motion. Newly sworn in Council Member Ron Smith requested the item be pulled from the consent calendar for further discussion.

“I know that this is a very important subject, maybe one of the most important subjects for our community,” said Smith, who was participating via telephone from Plano, Texas. “About a year ago, the citizens were told that it was going to be dropped to $153 after it was voted in. I really think, to really regain trust from our citizens, it should be given what was told a year ago and it should be $153.”

When passed, the parcel tax included a provision for the tax to be reduced if other revenue - notably taxes from the burgeoning cannabis industry - began flowing in. Those taxes have yet to be realized, however.

During public comments, DJ Twohig, representing MyCalCity.org said his organization believes parcel taxes designed for a specific project is a good use.

“That's a good purpose for parcel tax: a library, a school, not for personnel,” he said. “It's not tied to a general tax, it's based upon mere ownership of a parcel and therefore could never be fair tax.”

Rick Warren said department audits were also discussed when the tax was first put in place.

“To be honest with you, the parcel tax is this blank check allows them to keep spending,” he said.  “All I have been watching since that has passed is spend, spend, spend. Nobody's actually ordering the departments to verify their actual needs. At this point, we have not seen any responsibility from the departments.”

Council Member Don Parris noted there appeared to be some discrepancies in the amount of additional revenue collected.

“It appears that the numbers are wrong,” he said. “At this time, I’d like to reduce it at least $10 and make it $172.50, just to show the public that we need to get our numbers right, but we also have a time constraint to get this to the county.”

Council Member Nick Lessenevitch sided with Smith’s recommendation to lower the tax to $153.

“The promise that I understood came from the council, when this was approved, was that it would be reduced to $153 immediately,” he said. “As far as what has economically happened with the new industry in town, I think that’s immaterial. A promise was made that we would reduce it, shouldn’t have been this high in the first place. It has to be reduced, irrespective. That’s the path we’re on.”

Smith made a motion to lower the tax to $153 with a second by Lessenevitch. The motion failed, with a vote of three to two, only Lessenevitch and Smith voting in favor.

That vote was immediately followed with a motion by Mayor Pro Tem Eugene Stump to lower the rate to $172.50, with a second by Parris. That motion passed with the same voting pattern.

In other business, the council:

• Adopted a resolution authorizing the filing of an application for Regional Surface Transportation Program Funding and committing the necessary local match and stating the assurance to complete the project

• Adopted a Resolution approving a denial for industrial disability retirement

• Adopted a resolution authorizing the filing of an application for Congestion Mitigation And Air Quality Program funding and committing the necessary local match and stating the assurance to complete the project

• Approved adoption of water standby charges for fiscal year 2019-2020

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