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Voters Approve Measure O
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Measure O, a ballot initiative to increase sales tax by .5 percent within Oakdale City limits, has passed in the preliminary election results. Just over 56 percent of voters approved the sales tax increase, which will add one half cent to every $1 purchase made in Oakdale. This tax will go into effect on April 1, 2012 and will end March 31, 2015. Revenue from the tax will go directly to Oakdale's general fund.

Although supporters of Measure O billed it as a revenue source for fire and police, this money will not be specifically earmarked for those purposes. Tom Hallinan, Oakdale City Attorney, wrote the impartial analysis for the ballot initiative.

“The tax is not targeted for any specific service. It will go to Oakdale’s general fund. It was created really to preserve the current services offered by the City of Oakdale,” Hallinan said.

The current sales tax rate in the City of Oakdale, before measure O goes into effect, is 7.375 percent. Albert Avila, director of finances for the City of Oakdale, said that 1 percent of the sales tax currently goes to Oakdale’s general fund. Another 6.25 percent is a State sales tax, and .125 percent is a voter-approved tax that funds libraries. Avila said that once Measure O goes into effect the City of Oakdale will receive 1.5 percent sales tax on most purchases made in Oakdale. Early estimates showed that Measure O could add $1.2 million a year to Oakdale's general fund.

The Oakdale City Council met on Nov. 9, the day after the election, to discuss goals for the year. They also took the opportunity to discuss how the increased sales tax revenue would affect Oakdale.

“Yay, we did it, we did it, we did it,” said Oakdale Mayor Pat Paul.

Discussions included formation of an oversight committee to track spending of Measure O revenue. The council discussed inviting people who were publicly against Measure O to serve on the committee to oversee funds. Paul said that her intention was that funds would still be used for public safety, roads, the senior center and other reasons the measure was put to the public. A full 82 percent of Oakdale's general fund is spent annually on police and fire services.

“This buys the City of Oakdale time to re-engineer its business processes,” said Interim Oakdale City Manager Gregory Wellman.

Council members discussed ways that they could increase retail in Oakdale to in turn increase sales tax revenue. They discussed revising the big-box store ordinance or changing it to make it friendlier to big retailers. No decision was made on the ordinance, but it will be brought to a council meeting in the near future.

For now, city financial advisors are cautioning council to use the additional Measure O funds wisely. The money will buy Oakdale more time, but it will not solve all financial problems.

“You’re not in any position financially to add employees, salaries and benefits,” Wellman said.


School Board Races

The preliminary results for the Nov. 8 election show low voter turnout across Stanislaus County. Lee Lundrigan, Stanislaus County Registrar of Voters, reported that 18 of the 163 Stanislaus County polling places received fewer than 15 voters on Election Day. Two polling places had only two voters cast ballots.

Two area seats were up for election in the Oakdale Joint Unified School District Governing Board. For Area 1, incumbent Mike Tozzi came in first with 54 percent of the votes. In Area 2, Tina Shatswell edged out incumbent Rick Jones with 52 percent of the votes.

Preliminary results for the Knights Ferry School District election were especially close. Incumbent Maureen McKibban received the most votes, 57 total. Sherron McCarthy, also an incumbent, won back her seat with 50 total votes. The next runner up Kym Cassaretto received 49 total votes. In cases of such close preliminary results, a winner is not declared until election results are certified.

The Valley Home Joint Unified School District Governing Board had three seats open in this election. Larry Betschart received 30 percent of the votes, Heather G. Duvall received 27 percent, and Shara Ruddy received 22 percent. Incumbent Don Taro was not re-elected to serve on the board, with 20 percent of total votes.

Lundrigan reported that 35,876 total votes were counted on Nov. 8 and are included in the preliminary results released by her office. However, around 15,000 ballots remain to be counted. Many of those ballots were vote-by-mail ballots dropped off at polling places or received on or just before Election Day. The final election results will be certified by Nov. 21.