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Seven Orange County cities are asking voters to approve tax increases on Nov.6, including five proposed sales tax increases, two measures to raise hotel bed taxes and a new tax on legal marijuana dispensaries.

If voters approve Measure X, a 1.5 percent sales tax increase in Santa Ana, the city would have the highest sales tax rate countywide at 9.25 percent.

The measures follow a trend of cities statewide asking their voters to raise taxes to keep up with rising costs rather than make cuts to city services.

In the 2016 election, voters in Fountain Valley, La Palma, Stanton and Westminster approved one percent sales tax increases. La Habra voters approved a half-cent sales tax increase in 2008, a measure which will sunset in 2028.

Many cities statewide are struggling with pension debt, largely driven by the cost of public safety pensions. Salaries for police officers and firefighters typically account for the majority of city spending, often between 60 and 75 percent of city budgets.

A January study by the League of California Cities found that over the next five years, cities’ dollar costs for pensions are expected to increase by more than 50 percent, and more than double the percentage of their general fund devoted to pension costs.

This year’s ballot measures include:

  • Measure O – Garden Grove: One percent sales tax increase
  • Measure P – Laguna Beach: One percent sales tax increase for 25 years to fund undergrounding utilities project
  • Measure U – Placentia: One percent sales tax increase
  • Measure W – San Clemente: Increase hotel bed tax from 10 to 12.5 percent
  • Measure X – Santa Ana: 1.5 percent sales tax increase until 2029, when the rate will drop to a one percent increase until 2039
  • Measure Y – Santa Ana: New business license taxes on medical marijuana/commercial cannabis shops. Enact a gross square footage tax between 25 cents and $35 and a gross receipts tax rate of up to 10 percent annually.
  • Measure BB – Seal Beach: One percent sales tax increase
  • Measure CC — Tustin: Increase hotel bed tax from 10 to 13 percent.

Except for the Laguna Beach measure, the other seven tax increases are general taxes, meaning city officials can use the revenue generated by them for any purpose. The Laguna Beach measure is also the only one to have a specific sunset date, 25 years from the time of approval.

If voters in San Clemente and Tustin approve the measures to increase hotel bed taxes, also known as transit occupancy taxes, the cities would still have lower rates than Anaheim and Garden Grove, which have the highest rate countywide. Anaheim taxes hotel visitors at 15 percent, followed by Garden Grove with 14.5 percent.

View all local measures appearing on Nov. 6 ballots countywide at the Registrar of Voters website. 

Contact Thy Vo at tvo@voiceofoc.org or follow her on Twitter @thyanhvo.

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