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Carl Love: Will Murrieta, Wildomar voters buy sales pitches on boosting sales taxes?

The voter brochure picture shows cops, firefighters and a police dog standing in front of Murrieta City Hall with the heading: “Information About an Upcoming Public Safety and Quality of Life Measure.”
Who can say no to that, especially in Murrieta, a city that has its own police and fire departments, a community that has long bragged about its low crime?
A form of that question will be on the ballot next month as voters in Murrieta, where I live, and Wildomar ponder whether to raise sales taxes to fund more city services, especially public safety, a popular sales pitch in communities populated by families.
A recent local example of such a question is Temecula, where voters two years approved a similar measure by 51-49 percent, a mere 776 votes. Menifee voters that year also increased a sales tax increase by a much bigger margin: 68-32 percent.
The Temecula measure is expected to generate about $25 million a year, City Manager Aaron Adams estimates.
Like the Murrieta voter brochure, Temecula officials said the higher tax was needed to help stave off a structural budget deficit tied to rising costs for police and fire services, which are outpacing gains in tax revenue.
Adams said the city is following through on its promise, amending its contract with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department for police services and adding 11 more officers.
A new fire station opened in Roripaugh Ranch as well as other fire protection upgrades, plus a host of improvements in parks, library, roads, technology and other areas, the city manager said.
Paul Jacobs campaigned against the Temecula measure two years ago and today still calls it “an unnecessary tax to create a slush fund of $25 million per year …”
Sure, Jacobs, said, the city has upgraded services since the tax was approved. But, given how much money is being raised every year, he thinks the city should be doing even more.
With Temecula’s sales tax arsenal of Old Town, car dealers, the mall and nearby tourist draws such as the Pechanga Resort & Casino and Temecula Valley Wine Country, the city already had plenty of money before the tax increase, Jacobs argued.
In Murrieta, which has much less commercial activity but a similar-sized population compared to Temecula, about 113,000, the sales tax measure would generate an estimated $14 million a year. In Wildomar, which has about 36,000 people, the sales tax increase would only generate $1.7 million a year.
Clearly, based on population and sales tax revenue, Wildomar is making do with dramatically less than Murrieta and especially Temecula.
And if you’ve been to Wildomar or Temecula recently, the shopping options in the two cities are dramatically different.
Jacobs, the Temecula critic, said he’d be more inclined to support the Murrieta and Wildomar tax measures if he lived in those places than he was to back Temecula’s.

“Those city governments have not been nearly as grandiose in their spending habits compared to Temecula that simply blew its poorly managed budget,” he said.
Adams thinks his city is managing its budget just fine, which is why voters approved the tax measure to maintain what they have.
“They did not want to see Temecula slip into mediocrity.”
Now to see what Wildomar and Murrieta voters think of raising the same taxes in their cities.
Reach Carl Love at .

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