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County Supes Place Sales Tax Increase on Ballot

A one eighth of a cent sales tax hike in November would mean the local rate would go from 8.375 percent to 8.5 percent.

Supervisor Mike Wasserman, a Los Gatos resident and former mayor and council member, was absent, but he's opposed the increase saying it would make it harder for businesses and individuals to continue to conduct commerce in the county.

"I feel our local taxes are already among the highest in the state and the cost of living here is already very high," Wasserman said last week about his opposition to the measure.

If county supes have their way, local residents will see the sales tax go up once again from 8.375 percent to 8.5 percent.

“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 Board of Supervisors President George Shirakawa. “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.”

Last week Supervisor Dave Cortese said the 1/8-cent sales tax will allow the county to be more sustainable in the next 10 years. The revenue is needed to give Santa Clara Valley Medical Center about $50 million to operate annually. "We never want to be in a position to have to shut down an emergency room or deny people care," Cortese said. "An eighth cent is reasonable to ask people to make that contribution over 10 years ... given what we've done to rein in spending.

"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,” Cortese added. “We are hopeful that county residents will take these factors into consideration.”

The funds generated by the tax increase would be used for a variety of countywide services, including public safety, health programs for low-income children, housing for the homeless, and programs aimed at helping students stay in school.

If the tax increase is allowed by voters, revenues collected would total an estimated $500 million over 10 years, according to a press release issued by the county. The tax would go into effect April 1, 2013, and sunset in 10 years. 

“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.”

—Bay City News contributed to this report.

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