San Mateo County's Board of Supervisors unanimously voted on Tuesday, July 26, to place a measure on the Nov. 8 ballot that would add 20 years to the remaining six years of a half-cent sales tax approved by the county's voters in 2012.
The tax is considered a general tax because it can be spent on any county expenses, and needs approval by a simple majority, at least one more than 50 percent of those who vote.
The supervisors say they hope the tax will be able to help the county fund projects that would increase the supply of affordable housing.
Supervisor Don Horsley said the sales tax funds have so far been "transformational," funding projects such as student literacy, transit for those with disabilities, a response to sea level rise, health care for farm laborers, paying down the county's retirement liabilities and improvements in police and fire dispatch facilities.
The sales tax money has allowed the county "to do so many things that we otherwise would not have been able to do," he said.
Other supervisors said the sales tax money has been used for enhancing parks and libraries and providing mental health services for students.
Board President Warren Slocum said extending the tax "provides a predictable revenue stream for San Mateo County" so it can continue to fund the types of projects that the tax has so far been used for.
The sales tax extension was not the funding source the supervisors had initially wanted. They had discussed putting a $500 million housing bond measure on the ballot, and the possibility of an additional sales tax.
But initial polling said the $500 million bond measure wouldn't gain the two-thirds majority vote needed for passage. Research also showed that a new sales tax isn't possible because the county's sales tax rate is already the maximum allowed by the state.
A pollster hired by the county found that even a smaller bond measure had little chance of passage. Polling showed that the sales tax extension, by contrast, received much more support than it needed to pass.
See the board meeting agenda and staff reports on the county's website.
The county has a webpage devoted to the current sales tax.
Related stories: ● Supervisors move toward sales tax ballot measure.