Atherton voters are being asked to renew a parcel tax -- $750 a year for the typical homeowner -- that provides critical funds for the operation of the town, according to Atherton officials.
There are two measures on the Nov. 3 ballot: Measure S renews the tax at the existing rate. Measure T allows the town to raise its appropriation limit to spend revenue from the tax.
Measure S, the four-year renewal of the parcel tax, requires approval by two-thirds of the voters to pass. Measure T needs a simple majority: at least 50 percent of voters plus one.
The town relies on proceeds from the parcel tax to fund road repair and drainage projects, as well as to shore up the public safety budget, said Mayor Jerry Carlson.
While the typical parcel tax rate is $750 a year, it's higher for owners of homes on very large lots, and it's lower for very small or undeveloped properties. And, as proponents like to point out, it's tax-deductible.
The current parcel tax measure expires June 30, and the four-year renewal would allow the town to continue collecting the tax without interruption.
"If we can get it passed now, we can continue our projects on roads and drainage, and put together a budget for the next fiscal year," said Mr. Carlson. "If it doesn't, we'll have to put some things on hold and see if we want to put it on the ballot again (in the spring). It causes a lot of angst and it's more expensive when we have to stop things and then start them again."
Last year, the parcel tax generated $1.86 million in revenue for the town, said Atherton Finance Director Louise Ho. The money flows into the town's general fund, and each year, the City Council decides how to allocate it. In recent years, most of the parcel tax has gone toward capital improvement projects.
There's been no sign of any organized opposition to the parcel tax. Usually, local Libertarian party members submit ballot arguments opposing tax measures as a matter of course, but no one bothered this year.
A volunteer committee supporting the parcel tax has put out a couple of mailers and has been sending out e-mails to Atherton voters, Mr. Carlson said.
He pointed out that the parcel tax helps fund the town's police department as well as other important public safety projects, such as the emergency evacuation siren recently installed near the reservoir in West Atherton, emergency supply trailers, and a new mobile police command center.