VACAVILLE — Vacaville’s budget got the fiscal breathing space it so badly needed Tuesday night.
A solid majority of Vacaville voters approved Measure M, agreeing to pay a 0.25 percent sales tax for the next five years to help City Hall rebuild city services cut during the past four years to make fiscal ends meet.
Residents gave an even larger margin of support to extending a longstanding excise tax in the form of Measure I, which allows the city to continue to collect the tax that’s been on the books since 1988 and was originally supposed to sunset at the end of this year.
“I am very happy with things. There have been so many people who have been very supportive of Measures I and M,” said Steve Wilkins, former City Council member who headed up the campaign to get the two measures passed. “The big thing is that the voters of Vacaville have basically confirmed that they want to invest in our community and continue to enjoy the quality of life that we expect to have.”
As of 11 p.m., Measure M was passing with 68.5 of the vote while Measure I had a whopping 80.1 percent of the vote.
Measure I renews an excise tax that was first passed in 1988. The tax generated about $2.4 million a year for 25 years to build the Ulatis Community Center, upgrade facilities such as the Walter Graham Aquatics Center and the McBride Senior Center, repair streets and maintain the city’s parks.
Measure M was added to the November ballot mix early this year as a 0.25 percent sales tax that would raise approximately $3.5 million a year and boost the city’s sales tax rate to 7.625 percent for the next five years.
Vacaville leaders said both measures were badly needed in order to restore a depleted city budget reserve and keep from further eviscerating the city’s services and programs, which they said have been cut to the bone during the past four years.
Vacaville City Manager Laura Kuhn said she was very optimistic of the two measures’ chances.
“This city has always been very supportive,” she said.
With the two measures on their way to victory, Kuhn said that city leaders will “catch their breath for a month” and then start planning the 2013-14 budget. The city won’t see any extra sales tax money until April, but it will have a big effect on the upcoming budget.
Kuhn vowed that a very public process will be set up to get public input on where the money should go and that the council will be very open about its financial decision-making.
Nolan Sullivan, who served as Measure I and M’s social media coordinator, predicted early Tuesday night that Measure I would be “a slam dunk” because it was the continuation of an existing tax. He was proven right.
Sullivan was more worried abound Measure M’s chances because “there is a lot of anti-tax sentiment out there.”
Wilkins said he was not surprised by the outcome given how hard supporters worked during the campaign. He said this win will put Vacaville in a relative fiscal safe zone to allow it to rebuild its budget.
“But we never took the vote for granted because there was always the chance that people would see things differently than we would,” Wilkins said.
With the state’s Proposition 30 tax measure headed for defeat as of 11 p.m., Wilkins said he is concerned about what the state may do to put more money in its own depleted coffers. The state did just that last year when it eliminated redevelopment and took that money.
“Are they going to try to do it on the back of the cities and the counties? That is the only thing that I see that has a potential negative effect on the city,” Wilkins said.
Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ithompsondr.