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Laguna’s proposed sales tax increase fails; 2 other local measures win approval

Laguna’s proposed sales tax increase fails; 2 other local measures win approval
Laguna Beach voters rejected a sales tax increase intended to pay for placing utility lines underground on Laguna Canyon Road, pictured in 2016. (File Photo)

A proposed 1% sales tax increase in Laguna Beach intended to pay for placing utility lines underground along Laguna Canyon Road, along with other fire-safety projects, failed in Tuesday’s election.

Meanwhile, ballot measures in Newport Beach and the Newport-Mesa Unified School District were easily approved.

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With all precincts reporting Wednesday, the Laguna sales tax proposal, called Measure P, was rejected by 53.8% of voters, with 46.2% in support.

The initiative needed a two-thirds majority vote to pass. It was projected to generate $5.6 million annually by raising Laguna’s sales tax rate from 7.75% to 8.75% for as long as 25 years.

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Supporters such as Councilwoman Toni Iseman, who was reelected to her sixth term Tuesday, said the undergrounding effort is essential to prevent fires caused by downed utility lines and that the tax would be paid primarily by tourists.

But opponents called the tax a “money grab” and contended it would drive up Laguna’s cost of living.

Councilman Steve Dicterow said Wednesday that he was surprised more than 50% were against it but that he never felt it would pass.

“Laguna Beach has a very educated electorate who studied it and realized it wasn’t something they wanted to support,” Dicterow said.

Though the council voted unanimously in July to send the measure to voters, Dicterow said at the time that he intended to vote against it at the polls.

Newport-Mesa Unified Measure H

In the Newport-Mesa Unified School District, which serves Newport Beach and Costa Mesa, Measure H, which would limit school board members to three consecutive four-year terms, won easily, with 83.8% voting yes and 16.2% opposed with all precincts reporting.

Under the measure, board members who are termed out would be able to return in the future after a break.

Currently, the seven trustees are elected for four-year stints and can remain on the board for as many terms as they and voters desire.

Current trustees Karen Yelsey and Walt Davenport joined the board in 2006, Dana Black has served since 1996, Martha Fluor since 1991 and Judy Franco since 1980.

Newport Beach Measure T

Newport’s Measure T asked voters to approve an amendment to the city charter to require 55% voter approval whenever the council wants to spend at least $50 million on capital projects using a financing method known as certificates of participation, or COPs.

The measure received 79.7% of the vote with all precincts reporting.

COPs do not require voter approval like general obligation bonds, which lead to increased local property taxes.

The city last used the COP funding mechanism in 2010 for the Civic Center and Park, a $140-million undertaking that was completed in 2013 with about $17 million in cash and $123 million in COPs.

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