With voting season right around the corner, the Porterville City Council, with help from City Attorney Julia Lew, attempted to iron out the details of two proposed tax measures that could be added to the ballot in November.
The first tax measure up for discussion at Tuesday night’s Council meeting was the proposed cannabis industry excise tax. It should be noted that this tax is not a sales and use tax. It is strictly a tax on the cannabis business.
Lew explained that she created the proposed tax using similar tax ordinances used for cannabis businesses in the area, but modified it to fit the needs of Porterville. Lew proposed a tax rate of ten percent per gross receipts or $25 per square foot of the business. She explained that specific tax rates can be set by resolution and that the proposed measure allows for some flexibility and a tax range for the city to see which tax fits each cannabis business individually.
The proposed measure only establishes maximum tax rates and places the city, specifically the finance director, as the tax collector. The tax is to be locally administered and includes and appeal process within the proposition. The ordinance proposed on Tuesday night covers more than what is currently permitted by the city, which allows for some flexibility should multiple businesses open on the same property as the cannabis businesses.
Lew was looking for direction from the Council, but the dais seemed to agree upon the document as presented and will be asked to officially approve the proposed tax measure at their next meeting.
The second tax up for Council discussion on Tuesday was the transient occupancy tax (TOT). Lew explained that the current TOT hasn’t been changed since 1965, and proposed that the city rase their TOT rate from eight percent to 12 percent. She also stated that she included a line that allows for online travel companies to impose the tax upon online purchase. The Council will be asked to officially approve the modified TOT at their next meeting.
It was apparent at Tuesday night’s meeting that some Porterville residents would like to see the sale of fireworks within city limits completely banned. During oral communications, a handful of locals commented on the excessive use of illegal fireworks over the holiday weekend.
Brock Neeley stated that the use of illegal fireworks badly triggered his husband’s PTSD. He provided the Council and city staff with a peer study that was conducted about the effects that fireworks have on veterans, and demanded that the Council make all fireworks illegal within city limits in order to save veterans from PTSD attacks that may lead to them completing suicide.
John Coffee submitted his comment via email, and stated that it;s either fireworks or the mental well being of local veterans. He stated that on July 4th the abundance of illegal fireworks that were set off near his home were cause him to curl into a ball on the floor, wishing that he was back in Vietnam. Coffee echoed Neeley by stating that the Council should ban all fireworks in Porterville.
Travis Howell stated that he had heard about a movement to ban the use of private fireworks in the city and that he fully supported that idea. Several others echoed these sentiments, stating that not only are fireworks traumatizing to local veterans, but also to household pets. One person stated that she didn’t see the use in calling the police as there were just way too many illegal fireworks going off on Saturday night for the Porterville Police Department to handle.
A major highlight of Tuesday’s meeting was a presentation by the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic Christian Gentleman’s Association. The local branch of the Knights of Columbus volunteer at St. Anne’s Food Pantry, which is open all year, and stand on four pillars; charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism. In March, the Knights of Columbus teamed up with the local Galaxy 9 theater to raise money by showing the religious film “I Still Believe.” All of the proceeds from this fundraiser were to be put towards counseling sessions and mental health help for the firefighters involved in the library fire in February. All of the remaining funds that are not used for the mental well being of the fire personnel is to be put towards the construction of a new library facility.
An emotional Mayor Martha Flores graciously accepted the $3,500 check presented to the Council, and personally thanked each of the men who were at the meeting to donate the funds.