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Clock ticking on effort to raise sales tax in Lemon Grove, "save city"

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Posted at 4:32 PM, Sep 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-26 19:32:08-04

LEMON GROVE, Calif. (KGTV) - Supporters of a sales tax increase in Lemon Grove plan to gather signatures for the final time this weekend in hopes of qualifying a ballot measure that they say is needed to save the city from disincorporation.

Facing gloomy revenue projections in a city with the lowest sales tax rate in the county, supporters want to put a three-quarter cent increase before voters on the March ballot.

Without the hike, the city might be forced to dissolve into the county, which would take possession of city assets and likely sell City Hall, said councilman Jerry Jones.

"We've done all the cuts that we can do," he said. "We're in worse shape than we were 10 years ago."

The city spends roughly 80 percent of its budget on public safety, leaving little for infrastructure and other programs like addressing homelessness, Jones said.

The tax hike would generate 3 million dollars, raising the city's total sales tax revenue by 38 percent, he said.

At the Grove Grinder restaurant, business owner Sharon Jones is skeptical of the doomsday scenario.

"I think it's just a scare tactic," she said.

She thinks the city should help its business community grow, and says raising the sales tax might do just the opposite.

"There are more businesses closing down here in lemon grove. If they think they're getting the sales tax that comes from businesses, they're not going to get as much as they think they're going to get," she said.

Councilman Jones was once opposed to a tax increase too, but now he say it's necessary.

"There are just no other alternatives if we want to stay a city," he said.

Supporters have until September 30 to gather 1,489 signatures to qualify for the March 2020 ballot.

"We think we can" get enough signatures by the deadline, said Yadira Altamirano, one of the proponents of the Lemon Grove Tax Measure. "We need all of our neighbors and Lemon Grove registered voters to come sign the petition this weekend."

Organizers will be collecting signatures in the Sprouts parking lot Saturday from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. and Sunday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., she said.

If the measure doesn't qualify for the March ballot, the council could step in and vote to put a measure on the November ballot, Councilman Jones said.