More than a decade ago, voters in Palm Springs agreed to tax themselves and visitors one cent for every dollar spent here, except for food purchased as groceries or prescription medications. By voting yes on Measure J, residents made it clear to city leaders that they favored a slight increase in taxes — as long as that money was used on community projects.
After realizing more than $170 million in revenue through the tax, several major projects have been funded in the city, including the downtown revitalization project, the new Downtown Park, upgrades to Fire Station No. 4, and repairs on more than 100 miles of city streets.
“Measure J has proven itself to be one of the most remarkable measures that we have passed in the city of Palm Springs,” Councilmember Lisa Middleton said at a joint meeting between the City Council and the Measure J Oversight Commission on June 5. “The benefits we have gained from Measure J are absolutely enormous, and they are continuing to pay dividends.”
Measure J sunsets in 2037, but Middleton thinks voters will eventually support the tax at the ballot box again — this time voting to make it permanent. She floated the idea during the June 5 meeting.
Naomi Soto, who currently chairs the Oversight Commission, said that without Measure J, some projects may have been smaller in size and scope. Measure J helped projects get funded quicker and get funding toward projects that may never have received funding without it.
Soto added that the current look and feel of downtown Palm Springs is a credit to funding from Measure J and that city streets are able to be repaired and maintained before they become too damaged.
Beyond the large projects, Measure J also funds smaller community-initiated projects that are suggested by other city commissions, the school district, nonprofits, and even individual residents.
“There is $1 million set aside for smaller projects that otherwise might have been drowned out by bigger infrastructure projects,” Soto said.
Soto said these ideas come to the Measure J Commission from all corners of the city.
“We helped fund shade structures at a playground and kitchen renovations at the Mizell Center,” she said. “We want these projects to benefit a wide range of people.”
The last solicitation for community-initiated projects was in the fall of 2021, and work is underway to complete projects approved for the two-year budget cycle that will end in June 2024. Still, Soto encouraged residents to come and speak at any Measure J Commission meeting to give input or ideas.
Taxpayer input would also be part of any possible ballot measure. Before voters could vote on making Measure J permanent, the City Council must discuss how to make that happen. Public input would be welcomed.
During the June 5 Council meeting, City Manager Scott Stiles said he would place it on a future agenda.