TULARE, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – Tulare Mayor Dennis Mederos is trying to manage the growing homeless population in the city. 

Mayor Mederos says without a shelter in Tulare, the city legally can’t make homeless individuals move from public property. He said this is causing issues across Tulare as the population of homeless individuals has continued to increase. 

“People want us to deal with this issue and one of the ways we’re going to try to do so, and one of the ways to deal with the issue itself is the passage of Measure Y,” Mederos said. 

Measure Y will be on voter ballots this November as the Cannabis Business Tax Ordinance. The measure could be used to fund other municipal needs like roads, fire, and recreation, but the city said they have plans to set aside part of the tax for the construction of the emergency homeless shelter in the city. Mederos said out of the three dispensaries in the city, two are being taxed at a higher rate due to previous agreements with the city. 

“This is a vote simply on whether we have an equal playing field as to the three dispensaries, and what are we going to do with the money that we get from it,” the mayor added. 

The measure would allow the tax to go up to 10 percent. Currently, two of the dispensaries are taxed at a five percent rate for the cannabis business tax. Herb n Vibes, which was established as a dispensary in Tulare before the other two businesses, has a cannabis business tax rate of 2 percent.

Mederos says it’s unlikely the rate will get raised to 10%, but this measure allows them to do so if needed. He said the plan the city council is looking at if the measure passes would raise their rate up to 5% to match the other businesses. 

Still, Herb and Vibes manager Chealsea Garcia said the higher tax rate will still impact their business She said she doesn’t know why the city is choosing to target cannabis for this tax. 

“For us as a dispensary that means prices are going to go up significantly too. It kind of will impact our patients quite a bit because we are a mom-and-pop shop,” she said. 

The mayor said the shelter could cost the city $3.5 million to build. It needs to have 200 beds to meet demand and to allow them to legally move homeless individuals out of public spaces city-wide.

If the measure doesn’t pass, Mederos said they will still want to move forward with the shelter, but they’ll have to use more general fund dollars to do so. Leaving Tulare with less money for other issues. 

Meanwhile countywide, the Tulare County Homelessness Task Force met on Wednesday to give updates on where projects and initiatives stand across Tulare County. 

Program coordinator Noah Whittaker said they’ve made progress on some more long-term solutions. 

“Next week one of our housing sites will meet its conversion from a motel into permanent housing and will open 50 rooms of affordable housing. Housing more than 35 people upon immediately opening of the program,” Whittaker said. 

That move is set to take place in Visalia on October 24th.