The Eureka City Council on Tuesday will provide feedback to staff on whether to put a measure on the November ballot that would extend the city's increased sales tax, which has primarily assisted in funding public safety programs. The council will also vote on two traffic claims filed against the city.
Before moving into open session, the council will discuss the Carole Beaton v. City of Eureka, Frank Jager prayer lawsuit in closed session.
Last month, Judge Bruce Watson found that non-secular prayers offered by volunteers at the opening of council meetings don't violate the state constitution as alleged in the lawsuit filed by Beaton, of Eureka. The ruling stopped short of deciding whether specific invocations may have been inappropriately sectarian or addressing Beaton's claim that Mayor Frank Jager shouldn't be using his city title or city resources to promote his annual prayer breakfast.
In regular session, the council will hear a report on Measure O, the Supplemental Transaction and Use Tax, passed by voters in 2010. Under the measure, a 0.25 percent transaction and use tax was tacked onto the city's sales tax, and has helped fund police, fire, emergency medical response, street maintenance, environmental programs, zoo and parks and recreation departments.
"To keep the budget healthy, I believe the people are going to have to acknowledge that 0.25 sales tax is definitely helping our city to be better," Councilwoman Marian Brady said. "None of us like more taxes, but just saying 'no' would not be an answer.
"It's just the cost of doing business, so to speak," she added. "We have to fund the things we want that make our city a better place."
The tax has generated nearly $11.6 million in revenue since it was passed, and is expected to fund nearly $4.1 million in general fund expenditures in the 2013-2014 fiscal year, according to a staff report. About $8.7 million has been allocated to the preservation of essential public safety programs, $940,000 to neighborhood wellness and community enhancement projects, $572,000 to previously cut maintenance programs and $470,000 invested in deferred maintenance of city facilities. Another $1 million also has been put aside to strengthen the city's operating reserves.
Under the tax, nine Eureka police positions and four Humboldt Bay Fire positions were saved, according to the report.
"Prior to the passage of the Supplemental Transaction and Use Tax, the fire department was facing the prospect of reduced staffing and reducing the day-to-day emergency services we provide to the community," Humboldt Bay Fire Chief Ken Woods said in the staff report. "The passage of the tax and resulting direct funding to the fire department has enabled us to reach full staffing for the first time in many years."
Councilman Mike Newman said if the tax is extended, it would continue to fund similar projects and programs.
"I would have rather seen an increase in business and sales taxes in that regard, which would mean our economy was prospering and have an increase that way, and let Measure O sunset, but it doesn't look like it's going to do that in the next few years, so I would like to see it go back out to the people for their decision again," Newman said.
The tax will expire on June 30, 2016, if an extension is not placed on the November ballot.
The council also will vote on a pair of traffic claims for damages with the city stemming from traffic collisions -- including one that killed a woman -- alleging the city has been negligent in designing and maintaining city streets.
City staff recommends the council vote to reject the claims, as is customary under the city's insurance policy.
The first claim was submitted by attorney Jeff Slack on behalf of Michelle Dennison, Shawn Dennison and Jason Sanders, whose mother Margaret Sanders, was hit by a van and killed while crossing Fourth Street in an electric wheelchair on June 29. The claimants seek an unlimited civil case, according to a staff report.
Margaret Sanders was crossing Fourth Street at the intersection of Fourth and K streets at about 10:00 p.m. when a 1997 Chevrolet van driven by Richard Lester, 78, hit her. Sanders died after she arrived at an out-of-area hospital.
According to a previous Eureka police press release, the fault of the accident was still being determined.
The second claim for damages was filed on behalf of William Shaun Taylor and William Austin Taylor, who have been sued for negligence in a December 2012 car accident that occurred at the intersection of I and Del Norte streets.
The claimants allege that the city is responsible for the injuries and resultant damages claimed by plaintiff Patricia Seher in a separate claim because the design, operation and management of the intersection caused Seher's injuries, according to the claim. William Shaun Taylor and William Austin Taylor are seeking an unlimited civil case.
If you go:
What: Eureka City Council meeting
Where: City Council chambers, 531 K St.
When: 6 p.m. Tuesday
Lorna Rodriguez can be reached at 441-0506 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @LornaARodriguez.