San Diego could get another $20 to $60 million per year if voters approve a tax on recreational marijuana on the November ballot, according to a study by the city’s independent budget analyst. Another ballot measure would not generate any new revenue but would free up about $1.4 billion for regional parks by continuing a policy that lets Mission Bay Park use lease revenue to pay for park upgrades.
The reports from the city’s independent budget analyst are two of 12 released in August, one for each measure that will appear on the Nov. 8 ballot. Five of the 12 ballot measures, E, F, G, L and M, will have little to no impact on the city’s finances. Measure C, which would raise hotel taxes in order to pay for a stadium and convention center annex for the San Diego Chargers, is based on sound revenue projections but may underestimate the ultimate costs of constructions, according to the analyst’s report.
Measure D, another hotel tax increase also known as the Citizens’ Plan, would generate between $18 million and $98 million per year with no financial risk to taxpayers. Measure N, the proposed recreational marijuana tax, could be a windfall for the city depending on a number of factors. If California voters approve a statewide ballot measure called Proposition 64, legalizing recreational marijuana in the state, San Diego’s Measure N would be rendered null and void.
Other variables include how many recreational marijuana dispensaries the city approves and the market price of recreational marijuana. Using Denver, where recreational marijuana is legal and taxed, the city’s independent budget analyst estimates San Diego would collect $22 million in the first year the five percent tax takes effect. If the City Council uses its discretionary authority to increase the tax from five to 10 percent, the revenue for the city would be about $66 million per year. Some of that tax revenue would go to pay for the costs of regulating recreational marijuana dispensaries, shipments and farms, which the budget analyst predicts will add up to $650,000 per year.
Measure J would let the city continue using lease revenue to fund upgrades and improvements to Mission Bay, Balboa, Chollas Lak, Mission Trails, Otay River Valley, Presidio and San Diego River Parks until 2069.
Measure K would require runoffs in the November general elections even if one candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote in a primary, which would increase election costs. The budget analysts estimates an increased cost of between $30,000 and $260,000 to administer the longer election.
Voters will receive copies of all the reports in sample ballots mailed out to all registered voters in the city. Groups have nine days to file formal complaints with a judge to change language in the reports if they find it inaccurate or misleading.
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