It’s official. The County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors approved the second and final reading of an Ordinance that would ask voters to increase sales tax by one-eighth cent in November, increasing the local tax rate from 8.375% to 8.5%.  If the measure is approved by voters, revenues collected from the proposed one-eighth cent general purpose sales tax could be an estimated $500 million over 10 years. The sales tax would go into effect April 1, 2013, and sunset in 10 years.

“The County has taken a hard look at the future and how to fund critical services for our community, such as trauma and emergency services,” said President George Shirakawa, Board of Supervisors. “With a questionable outlook for state and federal government funding, and after 10 consecutive years of substantial budget reductions to services and programs, we need to look at other revenue sources for the benefit of the community.”

The measure will be placed on the November 6, 2012, general election ballot, and if approved, would be used as County General Fund revenues that are unrestricted in their use and can be applied to any and all County governmental purposes such as:

  • Trauma and emergency services, including the Burn Center, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and a level I Trauma Center at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.
  • Preventive health programs including prenatal care, pediatric care, obesity prevention, and diabetes care.
  • Public safety services including fire and Sheriff.
  • Economic development programs to support job creation in Santa Clara Valley.
  • Disease prevention programs to stop the spread of tuberculosis, syphilis, HIV and other diseases.
  • Housing for homeless children and families.
  • Dental care, mental health, and drug and alcohol treatment.
  • Emergency preparedness.

Despite a decade of budget reductions and declining State and Federal revenues, the County of Santa Clara has worked to provide a healthy quality of life for residents, including underserved communities who are especially vulnerable during difficult economic times.

“Some sectors of the economy are rebounding, but there is still a lot of uncertainty about local impacts as well as those resulting from state and federal government funding issues,” said County Executive Jeffrey V. Smith. “We have taken action and made the hard decisions needed to reduce costs. We wouldn’t be asking residents to consider a one-eighth cent sales tax if we had other choices.”

Last year, County employees and labor unions gave up wages, salaries, and benefits valued at $75 million in ongoing savings.

“The County has exercised the utmost fiscal responsibility by tightening its purse strings — County employees have joined us by making $150 million in concessions between this year and last,” said Supervisor Dave Cortese. “We are hopeful that county residents will take these factors into consideration.”

“The Ordinance specifies that the funds can only be used in Santa Clara County and cannot be taken by other levels of government,” Supervisor Liz Kniss said. “There’s no magic wand to find a solution. We are dependent on ourselves and need to take action to continue delivering essential services for the welfare of our valley.”