Atherton voters will be asked to approve a four-year renewal of the $750 annual parcel tax when they head to the polls on Nov. 3. The Atherton City Council voted unanimously at its July 15 meeting to put the parcel tax on the ballot.
Atherton officials have been casting about for years to find a replacement for the special parcel tax, an annual levy that helps fund town services and capital projects. This spring, the council even commissioned pollsters Godbe Research to canvas residents about replacing the parcel tax with a utility-users tax. However, it looks like the income tax-deductible parcel tax remains Atherton residents' preferred form of municipal taxation.
The current parcel tax measure, approved by voters in February 2005, expires June 30, 2010. For the typical Atherton homeowner, the parcel tax costs $750 annually. Residents of small lots must pay $450 a year, and those with lots larger than 2 acres are charged $960.
The rates would remain the same in the parcel tax renewal measure, which would run from July 2010 to June 2014. The measure requires a 2/3 yes vote in order to pass.
According to the town's ballot language, the parcel tax renewal measure would "continue providing funding to maintain neighborhood police patrols and the town's ability to respond to emergencies, repairing and maintaining streets, and repairing and constructing storm drains."
At the July 15 meeting, the council also voted unanimously to authorize a search for a consultant to help construct a public education campaign about the parcel tax. The obliquely worded agenda item sought permission to solicit proposals for "public information consulting services related to public education of services, policy and programs provided by the town." Council members had to ask for an explanation.
Assistant City Manager Eileen Wilkerson explained that the consultants would develop a strategy and message to provide the public with information on the effects of the upcoming parcel tax -- in a totally neutral way, of course.