Proposition 1 rides narrow margin to victory

It came out of the chute with a slight lead on Election night.

And following Wednesday's tally of an additional 1,226 primary election ballots, San Juan County's public safety sales-tax measure would appear to be a sure thing. Billed on the ballot as Proposition 1, the measure surged to a 312-vote lead on the heels of Wednesday count. With only 600 ballots or so left to count, Auditor Milene Henley said that Prop. 1 is sure to pass.

"The results won't change at this point," Henley said. "In fact, the margin is even more favorable now than it was on election night."

Following Wednesday's results, votes in favor of the measure, which will nudge up the local sales tax by three-tenths of 1 percent, from 7.8 percent, among the lowest in the state, to 8.1 percent, outnumbered opposition by 312 votes, or 53 percent versus 47 percent of ballots cast.

The increase will add 30 cents onto the cost of a $100 purchase, or $1.50 for $500. Most groceries, professional services and prescription drugs would be excluded. It goes into effect at the start of 2013.

Revenue generated by the sales-tax increase is also expected to help soften the blow of San Juan County's pending budget cuts in for the coming year. Without the added revenue, county officials anticipate having to slice $800,000 in expenses in 2013 and face an average revenue shortfall of $1.2 million over the next three years.

The uptick in the sales tax is expected to generate roughly $1 million a year in new revenue, 40 percent of which will be distributed, by law, to the Town of Friday Harbor. Also in accordance with state law, proceeds from the proposed increase are earmarked exclusively for government services that fall into the category of public safety, such as law enforcement or criminal justice services, public health or road safety projects.


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