Also, approved $60-75K for downtown street tree renewal program

ATASCADERO — The Atascadero City Council put the finishing touches on its 1-cent sales tax measure to be placed on the Nov. 3 ballot.

During a lengthy meeting Tuesday night, they have agreed upon the language and approved the costs associated with adding to the ballot.

Atascadero’s current sales tax rate sits at 7.75 percent and would jump up to 8.75 on April 1, 2021, should it pass in November, which will require a 50-percent-plus-one vote to pass. The added sales tax is predicted to generate $4.5 million annually for the City.

The suggestion to add the measure came at the City staff’s request a few months ago during a presentation showing Atascadero’s deficiencies in several areas, but most notably in public safety. According to City Manager Rachelle Rickard’s presentation, the lack of funding the City can generate, coupled with the cuts and postponements over the past year, Atascadero now only spends 35.5 percent of the national average on police and 19 percent of the average on fire services based on numbers from Cleargov.com.

Atascadero has the lowest police salaries in San Luis Obispo County, according to Rickard’s report, as well as a deteriorating firehouse that is in dire need of improvements.

A portion of the revenue generated by the additional sales tax would likely be used to bolster police and fire services.

Tuesday night, Council clarified the language for the measure while also setting priorities for written argument and rebuttals.

Following Council’s unanimous vote, they moved on to the different oversight options to accompany the new tax measure.

Council agreed to get public input on oversight through a variety of means, including a public meeting like “Talk On The Block.”

Council also was presented with six different options for ensuring that the public funds generated by the sales tax measure are spent on the established priorities.

Council agreed on option five, an annual report similar to budget projections.

Lastly, Council unanimously approved spending $60,000 to $75,000 from general fund reserves to implement a downtown street tree renewal program. The program’s initial focus will be on removing and replanting 20 trees in the downtown — El Camino Real and Entrada — area and refurbishing and filling empty planters.

Getting through this together, Atascadero