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Parcel Tax - YES or NO

Original post made by Peter Carpenter on Aug 25, 2013

The council has voted to place the renewal of the current Atherton Parcel Tax on the 5 Nov ballot.

Here is the Ballot Argument in support of the Parcel Tax:
"The parcel tax is not a new tax. It is a renewal of the Town's existing parcel tax which has been supported by the residents for the last 30+ years. As before, this tax will last four years and raises approximately $1.86M annually, equaling $7.5M over the four year term. The tax is about about $750 per household for most residential parcels.

All parcel tax revenue goes directly to the Town, while only 9% of regular property tax revenue is received by the Town. Parcel tax revenue will continue to be allocated as a budget supplement for our public safety and crime prevention services and also fund capital improvements for street, drainage and flood control projects which have often been ignored.

While it is true, that the Town's financial situation has improved over the last two years, the parcel tax remains a critical funding source for many pressing capital improvement projects while also helping to maintain our current police services and the critical 9-1-1 capabilities.

Atherton receives little sales tax revenue and has few other sources. Whenever possible, grants are obtained to help fund capital projects; however grants are scarce in this economic climate. The Town acts prudently with your money and has received clean Audits. The Town scrutinizes budget expenditures to reduce costs where appropriate including the elimination of our long term liabilities.

Without the parcel tax our current reserves, which are for future economic uncertainties and emergencies, would be depleted.

The parcel tax renewal requires a two-third's majority. Please renew the parcel tax so that your local government can continue to provide the safety, security, road repairs, drainage and flood control work necessary to maintain the quality of life we all enjoy.

Please vote Yes for Atherton."

signed by the four current council members.

No Ballot Argument against the Parcel Tax was submitted and therefore there will be no rebuttal to the FOR argument nor a rebuttal to the non-existent Against article.
Therefore perhaps the Town Forum will be a suitable place for a thoughtful discussion of this issue. To that end I will try to begin the discussion with some facts (note that I have not yet taken a personal position either for or against the Parcel Tax renewal):

The Town's 2013/14 proposed budget shows: Revenues $10,814,475

of which $1,858,000 would be

from the Parcel Tax

Expenditures $10,450,968

The budget states:"Without this (Parcel Tax) revenue, the Town would be required to expend this amount from the Town's unallocated General Fund or Reserves to maintain current service levels in public safety and current funding levels within the Capital Projects budget."

In 2014 the proposed budget shows $1,116,000 from the proposed Parcel Tax going to the police department.

The Police Services budget, including that $1,116,000 from the proposed Parcel Tax, for FY 2013-2014 is $5,577,474

The ballot argument states:"Without the parcel tax our current reserves, which are for future economic uncertainties and emergencies, would be depleted."

Here are the current reserve funds:

For FY 2013-2014, the Town's Reserves are:

15% Emergency Reserve - $1,567,645

20% Unassigned Reserve - $2,090,194

Building Contingency - $411,802

Your thoughts?

Comments (23)

Posted by Dioge, a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on Aug 25, 2013 at 1:54 pm

"No Ballot Argument against the Parcel Tax was submitted and therefore there will be no rebuttal to the FOR argument nor a rebuttal to the non-existent Against article.

Therefore perhaps the Town Forum will be a suitable place..."

No, Peter. The suitable place and action is to honor the democratic process and put forward a valid argument (if any) on the ballot as prescribed by rules and tradition. Hiding your points (or lack of) is a great disservice to the voters and dishonors the democratic process.

Y'all, to obliquely reference a phrase popularized by Tom Wolfe, did something to the po' doggie, didn't ya?


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 25, 2013 at 2:05 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

doggie - and what and why are you hiding?
Is it Itoo difficult to make an intelligent contribution to this discussion?


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 25, 2013 at 2:05 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

doggie - and what and why are you hiding?
Is it Itoo difficult to make an intelligent contribution to this discussion?


Posted by thoughtful thoughts, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 25, 2013 at 2:14 pm

As is typical the Almanac has provided a story to provide the usual feeding frenzy for the minority who dislike the Atherton Police Department. Guess this sells papers. However the other part of the Parcel Tax allocation is 40% for capital projects. Not as exciting as beating up on police compensation and benefits but very necessary for the safe functioning of our town.
The Capital Improvement Program for the next five years is contained in the linked town document starting on page 123 and details exactly the source of funds (including the parcel tax). One can decide if these improvements are arguments in favor of voting yes or no on the parcel tax:
Web Link


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 25, 2013 at 2:27 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Excerpts from the above referenced Town budget document:
"The Special Parcel Tax provides funding to maintain police emergency response services, street repair and maintenance, drainage facility repair and maintenance, and other capital improvements. As established by the Town Council policy, the Special Parcel Tax is allocated 60% to Police services, and 40% for Street and Drainage improvements.
The Special Parcel Tax generates approximately $1.86 million annually. Therefore,
approximately $740,000 is available per year for capital improvements. "

These are the specific projects that will be partially funded by the Parcel Tax:
- Roadside Drainage Master Plan & Improvements
- Marsh Road Retaining Wall Repair Project
- Series Street Light Replacement
- Pedestrian Traffic Signal
- Bike Lanes and Paths
- Accessibility Improvements
- Street Patching
- Street Seal
- Atherton Ave / Middlefield Road / Fair Oaks Lane Resurfacing


Posted by Dioge, a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on Aug 25, 2013 at 2:31 pm

Peter: "Therefore perhaps the Town Forum will be a suitable place..."

dioge: "No, Peter. The suitable place and action is to honor the democratic process and put forward a valid argument (if any) on the ballot as prescribed by rules and tradition. Hiding your points (or lack of) is a great disservice to the voters and dishonors the democratic process."

peter: "doggie - and what and why are you hiding? Is it Itoo difficult to make an intelligent contribution to this discussion?"

Once again, condescension arises when Pter doesn't like being called on what he has written..

Again, the discussion point was posted by Peter, Himself: "Therefore perhaps the Town Forum will be a suitable place..."

Yet when the point is addressed, the arrogance and condescension begins.

Peter: if you don't want your listed point addressed, you shouldn't have posted it. Or man up, and engage in the discussion on what YOU posted: "Therefore perhaps the Town Forum will be a suitable place..."

To repeat so you may possibly comprehend at a higher level this time, I said, no, you are wrong. The suitable place is where rule and tradition say we should see the Rebuttal (if any), IN THE BALLOT ARGUMENT section supplied to the voters. To not do so is a disservice, or disingenuous, nay, perhaps even dishonorable.

Care to attempt to hurl another insult again? (like the veiled "Itoo difficult to make an intelligent contribution") Please note that, as of yet, no one has questioned your intelligence for posting the item you posted, and then objecting when it is included in discussion.

That would be arrogant, condescending and unkind, wouldn't it?

Have a nice day.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 25, 2013 at 2:35 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The purpose of the Town Forum is to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. And relying on a short statement in the Voter's Guide is hardly the way to be an informed citizen.

Try it, you might like it.


Posted by W Crowder, a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 25, 2013 at 3:43 pm

Oh, Peter. Really? You make it too easy.

"And relying on a short statement in the Voter's Guide is hardly the way to be an informed citizen."

Really? Yes, many of us rely upon that statement as a starting place. Many of us also rely on a short rebuttal to gauge whether additional investigation is merited. @Dioge nailed you correctly when he pegged your attacks as condescension.

The foes of the tax should have placed a rebuttal, yet failed to do so for some unimagined reason. Actually, @Dioge imagined several reasons that the Negative Nancys didn't put a rebuttal into the guide ("a disservice, or disingenuous, nay, perhaps even dishonorable")

Yet you condescend onward, questioning intelligence, and sharing your strident belief in how an informed voter makes a decision!

So let's play that game.

The Negative Nancys should have put the rebuttal in the guide, and helped Athertonians make an informed decision. It would also have allowed the other side to address the rebuttal (which obviously the foes could not tolerate.)

Help the voters, don't hide from the voters.

As Peter, Himself (great one, @Dioge!) says:

"Try it, you might like it."


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 25, 2013 at 3:50 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

W Crowder - thank you for your thoughtful contribution "Help the voters, don't hide from the voters."


Posted by Be fiscally responsible, a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 25, 2013 at 4:14 pm

Hiding from the voters is exactly what the APOA and town council have tried to do by refusing to publish this rebuttal. They admit town council approval is required, but cancel the meeting that could have provided that approval. Consistent and reasonable enforcement of rules is required, or a court may pull this item off the ballot.

Stop hiding from the voters.


Posted by Jon Buckheit, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Aug 25, 2013 at 4:52 pm

Jon Buckheit is a registered user.

It is amazing to me that individuals who merely chose to express an opinion through a rebuttal are now being accused of "a disservice, or disingenuous, nay, perhaps even dishonorable [behavior]".

I can say that there were a number of residents who agreed with our statement, but expressed fear of signing on, and now I understand why.

And to Peter, W Crowder, Dioege, if the rules are so obvious that no rebuttal was permitted in this situation, why did I get an e-mail from the City Clerk's Office on August 15 at 6:09 PM, entitled "NOTICE TO VOTERS OF DEADLINE TO SUBMIT TO THE CITY CLERK REBUTTAL ARGUMENTS FOR OR AGAINST CITY MEASURES"?

So if no one submitted one, the parcel tax proponents could argue that support is so unanimous no rebuttals were submitted?

No, I don't think so. I think this was an honest confusion over the rules on the part of the opponents s well as the town. And if Peter believes the town was wrong about the law in soliciting rebuttals, it's the town who submitted their pro argument, so the town should make an accommodation here.

W Crowder, to respond to "obviously the foes could not tolerate" the city council not being able to respond to our rebuttal, I'd be fine with allowing them a rebuttal to our rebuttal.



Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 25, 2013 at 4:57 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Jon - wrong topic. This one is Parcel Tax - YES or NO

Your post belongs on Atherton: Parcel tax opponents miss deadline for ballot argument.

Thanks


Posted by Jon Buckheit, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Aug 25, 2013 at 4:58 pm

Jon Buckheit is a registered user.

Not when being accused on this thread of dishonorable behavior for submitting it.


Posted by who's who?, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 25, 2013 at 5:09 pm

am I reading this backward?

"No Ballot Argument against the Parcel Tax was submitted "

The APOA was supposed to do this? I thought this was the Anti's responsibility, not APOA.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 25, 2013 at 5:15 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

So sad that this forum encourages such rot when there is a need for an intelligent discussion on this issue.


Posted by colleen anderson, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Aug 25, 2013 at 7:29 pm

It is very difficult for me to decide yes or no on an issue when I am writing a blank check. If I better understood where the dollars were exactly going it would be easier to decide. I do not cut blank checks in my own home why would I do it when others are handling my money. Telling one side on a ballot makes it harder for me to vote in favor of a one sided issue.


Posted by My answer, a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 25, 2013 at 9:43 pm

When I was just a little boy
I asked my mother
What will I be
Will I be handsome?
Will I be rich?
Here's what she said to me

NO!


Posted by History, a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 26, 2013 at 2:34 pm

Peter,

There was no Arguement Against the Parcel Tax in 2005 or 2009.

Web Link


Posted by History, a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 26, 2013 at 2:52 pm

From 2005: The Arguement for:

Four years ago the Council committed itself to financial and administrative oversight, openness, responsiveness and accountability. We pledged to challenge and eliminate wasteful practices, institute extensive changes recommended by our auditors and address long-neglected issues such as roads, drainage, capital improvements to Town facilities and infrastructure, adequate but not excessive police staffing and economically appropriate salary adjustments.
We have fulfilled our promises. The Town has increased financial reserves by $90,000, despite a reduction in revenues last year of $200,000. We have eliminated non-essential overtime; reduced staff; improved cash management; raised the level of cost recovery on fee-for-services activities; renegotiated numerous contracts to improve service and reduce costs; aggressively sought out federal and state grants.

In the past four years we have frugally utilized almost two-thirds of parcel tax funds to complete numerous capital improvements, including road and drainage systems. We have proven our commitment to restoring your trust. Today our Town faces several new fiscal challenges, none of its own making. More than $2,876,000 of additional Town property tax funds are expected to be diverted to the state in the next four years while health, life and disability insurance, along with pension costs, have soared. As a consequence, the Town faces a projected $2,940,000 deficit during that same period.

Atherton is a unique residential community without any typical commercial business to generate sales tax revenue. Now more than ever we must actively explore ways of reducing expenses while finding alternative ways to generate additional revenue without further burdening our citizens. We promise to meet this goal. But we still need your help. Parcel tax money stays here and is tax-deductible. These funds are critical if we wish to maintain quality police and administrative service, community safety and Town resources.

Vote "yes."


Posted by Thomas, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Aug 26, 2013 at 10:09 pm

I have to agree with Mr. Buckheit. It certainly seems disingenuous that the town council did not give enough thought or time for citizen rebuttals. That said, despite the calls for outsourcing, time and again, the APD is not something the majority of the residents would be willing to part with.

That said, it's rather tiring reading remarks from posters that the APD is a boutique police force reduced to picking up newspapers and watering lawns. In this day and age, almost everyone gets their news online and also enjoys the benefit of an automatic watering system. Time to give that argument a rest. I know a many Atherton residents that do not rely on the APD for anything else than police services and they certainly can afford to hire someone outside of the APD for any other services.

That said, I do think Mr. Buckheit, as a resident of Atherton, is within his rights for questioning the rather sloppy effort by the town council to ask for opinions on the parcel tax on such short notice. It's indicative of yet another Atherton town council not willing to discuss even the most mundane issues with its residents despite my opinion that most residents would vote to keep the APD.




Posted by Paul, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 27, 2013 at 7:20 am

There must be more to the story. The Parcel Tax has been discussed at Council Meetings for months. There was a special meeting in early August to approve the "Pro" statement before the August 15th deadline.

Atherton has had 5 or 6 Parcel Tax votes in the last 15 years, and someone in the Opposition group should have known the August 15th deadline. Unless the thought was they could just do a Rebuttal.

I do not think anything was dishonest about the council or this group. Someone from the group should shed some light on when the Opposition Group first organized and how they planned to find out when their Opposition Statement was due. Did anyone go to the July or early August meetings?

Maybe there was confusion, that they thought could submit a Rebuttal without an Statement. If that is the case it is unfortunate they did not ask the town earlier. However the City Attorney should report what has happened in September to avoid confusion in the future.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 27, 2013 at 9:01 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

There is another thread on the absence of a rebuttal - see Web Link

This topic is intended to be a discussion of the pros and cons on the proposed parcel tax renewal.


Posted by Bill aka Llib, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Aug 27, 2013 at 1:32 pm

Seems to me most want to talk about Peter's admitting: "No Ballot Argument against the Parcel Tax was submitted and therefore there will be no rebuttal to the FOR argument nor a rebuttal to the non-existent Against article."

It IS curious.

Pooch-wise.

Or for the paranoid: "Cop Whose I"


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