Atwater's Measure H tax increase takes effect

vpatton@mercedsunstar.comJuly 6, 2013 

Measure H, the sales tax measure geared toward supporting public safety in Atwater, officially took effect Monday.

Narrowly approved by Atwater voters in November, the measure costs consumers an additional 5 cents for every $10 spent on taxable goods in Atwater.

Supporters said it was necessary to keep the city from cutting back on officers and services during tough fiscal times. Opponents thought there were better ways to get the needed funds than seeking a tax hike.

Frank Pietro, Atwater police chief and interim city manager, said that by September the city should begin seeing the first allotments from the projected annual $1.3 million the measure is expected to generate.

Pietro hopes the money also will put three or four more officers on the street by January or February. He pointed out the department's already down 10 officers.

If the tax hadn't passed, Pietro said, it would have greatly affected Atwater's quality of life, in terms of being able to adequately provide public safety services. "I am extremely happy that the city of Atwater supported (Measure H). Even though it just passed by a small amount, it still passed," he said.

The California State Board of Equalization released a notice last week reminding businesses and consumers about the new tax. According to the board notice, retailers generally must apply Atwater's new tax rate if they operate outside the city, but are engaged in business there and sell merchandise for use in the city.

Retailers must also apply the tax rate if they sell autos, boats or aircraft to customers who register them in Atwater, or collect tax on lease payments from property used in the city, according to the notice.

Retailers are considered to be engaged in business in Atwater if they have a business location in the city, deliver into the city using their vehicles or have a representative in the city limits that makes sales, deliveries, installations or takes orders.

If a retailer isn't required to collect the additional tax as described, the purchaser may be responsible for reporting and remitting use tax to the Board of Equalization, depending on the circumstances of the sale or use of the property, according to the notice.

The funds for Measure H are also geared toward restoring some officers' pay and replacing outdated equipment. It passed with 67.1 percent of the vote, and required two-thirds to pass.

Despite last year's dismal fiscal situation, which had many fearing Atwater was teetering on the cliff of bankruptcy, city officials say things are looking up.

The City Council last week unanimously passed a balanced $39.1 million budget for fiscal year 2013-14 — the city's first balanced budget in recent memory.

Atwater's budget anticipates revenues and transfers-in of $11.97 million to fund expenditures of $11.92 million. No employee layoffs were included in the budget.

 

City Editor Victor A. Patton can be reached at(209) 385-2431 or vpatton@mercedsunstar.com.

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