Thursday, March 09, 2006 | San Diegans pay less in taxes and fees than the average major city in California, a local think tank told a City Council panel Wednesday, but the council’s independent budget analyst opined that now is not the time to ask voters to raise rates.

The Center on Policy Initiatives, a research and advocacy group that champions the working poor, presented to the council’s Budget and Finance Committee a report it authored nearly a year ago that shows San Diego lagging in the taxes and fees it collects when compared to the 10 largest cities in the state.

San Diego, the state’s second-largest city, could generate another $279 million a year if it adjusted its taxes on hotel rooms, garbage collection, real estate transfers, utility usage and business licenses to be on par with the average rates that are paid in the Golden State’s 10 largest cities.

The independent budget analyst, or IBA, said the CPI report “did a good job illustrating San Diego’s general revenue and expenditure position relative to other large California cities,” but was cool to increased taxes. The city needs to fix its budget, become more efficient and regain its credit rating before asking for more money, the IBA stated.

Among the state’s 10 largest cities studied by CPI, San Diego was found to have:

– The lowest hotel tax, 15 percent lower than the major city average.

– The lowest real estate transfer tax, one-sixth the average.

– The second-lowest business license fees, less than one-fifth the average.

– No trash collection fee, when $9.80 per household was the average monthly fee.

– No utility users’ taxes, when $92 per person was the average annual fee.

The 10 largest California cities surveyed in the study were Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco, Long Beach, Fresno, Sacramento, Oakland, Santa Ana and Anaheim, respectively.

Supplementing the city’s revenue, the report says, could help fund improvements that will bring San Diego’s police, fire and parks departments and its public infrastructure up to speed with its regional economic growth and up to par with the state’s other urban centers.

For example:

– San Diego spends less per acre of parkland than any of the other cities surveyed. About $2,610 is spent per acre in San Diego, which is less than half the average per-acre expenditure of $6,442 among the state’s other large cities.

– Only Fresno spends less ($85 per person annually) than San Diego ($90 per person) on streets, highways and storm drains.

Tevlin’s analysis agreed with CPI’s argument that a public-awareness campaign about what San Diegans pay should be launched.

“It often times gets lost or forgotten in the course of our daily lives that the City provides a wide array of services; those services cost money; and the costs to sustain service levels desired by our residents may require new revenue sources,” the IBA stated.

Please contact Evan McLaughlin directly at

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