One percent sales tax in Ontario will now be up to voters

The city council will let residents decide on a one percent city sales tax.

ONTARIO, ORE. - A sales tax in Ontario, Oregon, may not be passed on to residents after all.

The one percent tax was unanimously approved by council members in September but opponents gathered more than enough signatures to bring the measure to the ballot for the people to decide.

The tax aims to make up for declining revenue over the years.

The town of 11,000 people sometimes sees more than 50,000 come through on a daily basis, mainly to take advantage of no sales tax in Oregon, but residents end up footing the bill.

"So the 11,000 people are responsible right now of really for paying all of the costs for our police, streets, water and sewer, all of these expenses are being forced on our 11,000 people," says Ontario Mayor Ronald Verini.

The one percent sales tax would generate roughly $3 million for the city annually, and was supposed to be implemented the first of next year.

"One percent tax, one penny on the dollar would really bail us out," says Verini.

But it's how this measure was passed that angered many residents.

"They were concerned about having it as a voter initiative rather than a council initiative," says Verini.

"It's discouraging, I think you would want the voice of the people to be heard so for that reason it's disheartening," says Thomas Mackey Grove III, a local barber.

Grove opposes the tax and likes the idea of having the people decide rather than the measure be a council decision.

He's also worried a seemingly small one percent could grow larger in the future.

"One percent doesn't sound like much, it's probably a drop in the bucket, then slowly increase that to two, three and slowly but surely were living in California," says Grove.

This is a fear all opponents of the tax have in common and it's a point council members and Mayor Verini have heard loud and clear.

Verini says along with putting the tax on the ballot, additional wording will be included stating Ontario voters must approve an increase if one is ever considered.

The measure will be put before voters in the upcoming May election.

© 2017 KTVB-TV


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