City’s one-cent sales tax increase will bring Exeter’s sales tax up to county’s average; Farmersville’s hotel tax is too close to call
EXETER – Exeter voters didn’t just pass the first sales tax increase in the city’s history, they did it with more than two-thirds of the vote.
The measure will increase sales tax within the city limits by one percent to 8.75%, bringing Exeter’s rate equal to similar sized cities such as Farmersville, Lindsay and Woodlake. It would be 25 cents higher than Visalia and Dinuba but 75 cents lower than Porterville. Exeter is currently at 7.75%, the base rate for Tulare County sales tax.
It is projected to bring in an additional $800,000 per year in revenue, according to city officials. Revenue from the sales tax would go toward the city’s general fund where it would primarily fund public safety (police and fire) and public works (water, sewer and roads) but could be used for other needs if those issues are adequately addressed.
Preliminary surveys in the spring were extremely accurate showing three-quarters of voters were either definitely or likely to vote in favor of the sales tax measure. About 8 in 10 residents rated public safety, water reliability and repairing streets and potholes as their top priorities. Three-quarters of those surveyed supported youth programs and preparing for public health emergencies and droughts.
Finance director Chris Tavarez said the council also passed several accountability measures including a bond oversight committee of citizens, annual independent audits, an annual spending plan approved by the council at a public meeting during its annual budget hearings, and that the money will be tracked separately from the rest of the General Fund to make it easy for residents to find in budget documents on the city’s web site.
Porterville voters supported their two ballot measures with two-thirds of the vote. Measure R will impose a $25 per square foot tax on cannabis businesses or collect 10% of all gross receipts. The revenue generated by the tax will be deposited into the city’s general fund for public safety and other city services. Measure S will impose a 4% tax on all hotel bookings, both traditional and online, also known as bed tax or transient occupancy tax. The money will be used to promote economic development within the community, the promotion of tourism and for the Mighty 190 campaign to raise awareness of the scenic Highway 190. From Highway 99 to the Sierra Nevada, offers world class biking, camping, fishing, hiking, hunting, off-road vehicles, rock climbing at Success Lake, Balch Park, Sequoia National Monument, and the Giant Sequoia National Monument. The county is partnering with a score of other agencies to promote tourism traffic along highway. The Mighty 190 South County Tourism Group said they have already developed “Mighty190” branding and a logo, bought the Mighty 190 website domain, created social media accounts and built an informational board and restrooms at Success Lake Vista Point that was installed by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The only local measure that is too close to call is Measure Q in Farmersville. The measure would impose a 10% tax on all bookings at hotels in Farmersville, which at this time there are none. The 10% rate would be equal to TOTs in Dinuba, Tulare and Visalia but more than the 8% charged in Exeter, Lindsay and Porterville. The tax can be a flat rate per night or a percentage of room fees charged by the hotel. If passed, the tax is estimated to raise $185,000 the city could use for economic development and city services. As of Monday, Measure Q was leading by just 51 votes with an estimated 450 votes left to count.