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Fairfax Puts Half-Cent Sales Tax on the Ballot

Council opts for tax amount that had broad support.

A local sales tax will be going to the ballot in one town in the Ross Valley this November.

Although , the Fairfax Town Council opted the following night to on the November ballot.

Council Members John Reed, Pam Hartwell-Herrero and Larry Bragman said they were in favor of a one percent tax, but the one percent proposal had opposition from the business community. The council opted instead to support something that had broad consensus.

“This is a phenomenal opportunity for us to push for the true financial sustainability you are asking us for,” argued Hartwell-Herrero of the one percent tax.

She noted that a one percent hike in the state sales tax had just expired, so the amount people would be paying if Fairfax raised its sales tax by one percent would be the same.

“I don’t think people are going to stop coming here because of a penny on the dollar,” she said. She went on the make an impassioned plea with the couple dozen residents in attendance that a full one percent sales tax hike could be the difference for the town, which is struggling with what will be a $200,000 deficit this year when the numbers are finalized. Otherwise, she said, the town would keep having to come back for more money and more – consider charging for parking, reducing services, not paving roads. “I grow weary of this subsistence living.”

Town Manager Michael Rock gave a presentation about the town budget in which he pointed out that revenues, from property and sales taxes, have been decreasing in the last five years. Though the town has made extensive cuts and is “bare bones,” he said, with the lowest number of employees per capita and the lowest paid employees of any town in Marin, without more revenues extensive service cuts would have to be made.

“Without any changes, the town budget is simply not sustainable,” said Rock.

Garry Graham, owner of , said he was shocked by the proposal to go forward with a one percent sales tax, since . Graham also said he was prepared to put up an opposition campaign to a one percent tax, which would cost his business thousands of dollars.

“One percent is an overreach,” he said.

“It’s a little bit ironic that some of the businesses that most benefit from those [public safety] services are most vocal in their opposition,” noted Mayor Bragman about the possibility of being forced to cut police services if the town isn’t able to find more revenue.

David Smadbeck, co-president of the and owner of the , also said he hoped the council didn’t move ahead with a one percent tax. Though he said he understands the tax is passed on to the customers, it changes the way customers think about tips and the bill and what they want to buy. The Sleeping Lady operates with just a five percent profit margin, so “one percent is a big deal,” he said.

The crowd was evenly split, more or less, between those in favor of a tax to support town services and those who feared it would ruin the downtown merchants.

In the end, the council opted to go with the 0.5 percent tax hike out of a desire to have a consensus and not divide the town over the issue.

“In the end, we wanted it to be a successful measure,” said Hartwell-Herrrero.

"I hear virtually no opposition to the half-cent tax," said Council Member Lew Tremaine, who urged everyone to remember that they're all in this together.

E. Williams July 29, 2011 at 04:43 PM
Can anyone tell me why it's taboo to charge for parking in Fairfax? Residents could have free exemption stickers, and it promotes the use of bicycles by locals as well. We could easily raise this money without a local tax, which I believe in the end will cause shoppers to purchase goods elsewhere, and stifles small business in Fairfax. We pay enough taxes as it is!
Kelly Dunleavy O'Mara July 29, 2011 at 07:26 PM
I actually think some charging for parking could be good and would actually encourage people to park in free lots and walk or bike and would encourage turnover, but *shrug* I'm not in charge.
sanford miles July 29, 2011 at 08:02 PM
cut the crazy pensions , read my lips more taxes wont help , ill shop in richmond and cook at home.
sanford miles July 29, 2011 at 08:04 PM
also if public servants would answeer calls or emails . it may let some people have a better understanding on what they dont do!!!!
Jory Prum October 13, 2011 at 03:22 AM
Town Hall spent the $2,719,000 million extra they collected from 2005-2010. Now they want $750,00 more. Find out why they don't need it on FairfaxSaysNo.com! http://FairfaxSaysNo.com

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