BARSTOW —On April 1, the one percent sales tax apprved by voters in Barstow in November will go into effect within the 41.33 square mile city through which some 190,000 trvelers headed to Vegas pass weekly.
There was opposition to Measure Q, including some reasoning by very articulate and determined critics, among them former Mayor Lawrence Dale and council candidate Bennie Fedrick. Nevertheless, the city’s voters were persuaded in sufficent numbers to pass the sales tax override. Measure Q garnered 2,613 votes or 59.22 percent in favor and 1,799 votes or 40.78 percent in oppostion.
City officials denied responsibility for that element of the pro-Measure Q campaign consisting of reports that the city was on the brink of filing for bankruptcy, but they nevertheless stood solidly behind the measure. The city’s 141 employees, the most poorly paid of whom make at least $90,000 annually in salaries and benefits, were a factor in getting the city’s voters, composed of a population that involved no fewer than 70 percent of whom are receiving some form of governmental financial assistance, to get behind augmenting the city’s revenue stream.
When the tax goes into effect, Barstow will lay claim to having, at 8.75-percent, the highest sales tax rate, in San Bernardino County.
The supporters of Measure Q were nonchalant about that, insisting that $7 million annual revenue boost will be paid in the largest measure by those non-residents blowing through town, primarily Vegas-bound tourists.
That revenue will flow into the city for the first time in June. The tax is not applicable to groceries, prescription medicine or services. It does apply to all other goods, fuel and prepared food or meals sold at restaurnats as well as equipment that is leased.
City officials are salivating at the prospect of divying up the lucre. The fire department and the police department will complete for some of what is coming in to hire more employees and open more stations, and purchase updated equipment. The city’s public works division anticpates being able to utilize some of the money for roads and sidewalks, and some will likely go to augmentations or repairs to the caty’s aquatic center, replacement of park and recreation equipment.
That distriibtuion is to be made in accordance with an “implementation plan,” and though city employees will have the greatest degree of influence on how that budgeting is worked out, the city intends to created a citizens’ oversight committee to monitor how the funds are utilized.