The only item on the ballot for Santa Clarita Valley voters Tuesday – whether to raise the sales tax by one-quarter of 1 percent to combat homelessness in Los Angeles County – remained too close to call despite a narrow lead on election night.
Measure H requires a two-thirds vote to pass (66.67 percent). After trailing all evening, the “yes” side pulled ahead when the last of the election-night ballots came in. The final precincts reported at 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, and “yes” led by a narrow 67.4-32.56 margin (379,005-182,969 votes).
Thousands of provisional and late-absentee ballots remain to be counted. The final tally won’t be known until the results are certified later this month.
If the measure ultimately prevails, the sales tax rate in both the city of Santa Clarita and the unincorporated county territory will climb to 9 percent from the current 8.75 percent.
Voters were asked to answer the following question:
Los Angeles County Plan to Prevent and Combat Homelessness. To fund mental health, substance abuse treatment, health care, education, job training, rental subsidies, emergency and affordable housing, transportation, outreach, prevention, and supportive services for homeless children, families, foster youth, veterans, battered women, seniors, disabled individuals, and other homeless adults; shall voters authorize Ordinance No. 2017-0001 to levy a ¼ cent sales tax for ten years, with independent annual audits and citizens’ oversight?
L.A. County Counsel provided the following impartial analysis:
Approval of Measure H (“Measure”) would authorize the County of Los Angeles (“County”) to impose a one-quarter percent (0.25%) special transactions and use tax on the gross receipts of any retailer from the sale of all personal property in the incorporated and unincorporated territory of the County (“Tax”). This Measure was placed on the ballot by resolution of the County Board of Supervisors (“Board”) and, if approved, will result in the enactment of Ordinance No. 2017-0001 (“Ordinance”).
Proceeds from the Tax will be used to generate ongoing funding to prevent and combat homelessness within Los Angeles County, including funding mental health, substance abuse treatment, health care, education, job training, rental and housing subsidies, case management and services, emergency and affordable housing, transportation, outreach, prevention, and supportive services for homeless children, families, foster youth, veterans, battered women, seniors, disabled individuals, and other homeless adults, consistent with the strategies developed through the Homeless Initiative adopted by the Board, and as otherwise directed by the Board to address the causes and effects of homelessness.
The Ordinance provides that the County shall contract with the California State Board of Equalization (“SBE”) to administer the Tax. The Ordinance requires the SBE contract ensure the combined local transactions and use tax rate limit (currently two (2) percent) is not exceeded in any city or district such that the Tax, when aggregated with all other transactions and use taxes within the city or district subject to the combined rate limit will (1) not cause the rate of all such taxes to exceed the combined rate limit, (2) not cause any person subject to the Tax to pay more than combined rate, and (3) have no impact on the revenue received by each city and district from transactions and use taxes previously imposed. The Tax will commence the latter of the first day of the first calendar quarter that is more than 110 days after approval of this Measure or the first day of the first calendar quarter after the execution of the SBE contract (“Commencement Date”). The Tax will expire ten (10) years after the Commencement Date.
If this Tax is approved by voters, the County Auditor-Controller shall have an independent auditor prepare and file a report with the Board by December 31 of each year the Tax is imposed. The report shall state: (1) the amount of Tax revenues collected and expended each year; and (2) the status of any project and description of services or programs funded from proceeds of the Tax.
If approved, the Measure creates a Citizens’ Oversight Advisory Board composed of five members appointed by the Board which shall review semi-annually all expenditures from the Tax, annually publish a complete accounting of all allocations each year, and submit periodic evaluations to the County.
The Tax proceeds shall be deposited into a special account, created and maintained by the County, and shall only be used for the specific purposes outlined in the Ordinance.
This Measure requires a two-thirds (2/3) vote for passage.