Atherton voters asked to renew parcel tax

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.

Voter information on Measure S.

Voter information on Measure T.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Fiscally responsible
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Oct 15, 2009 at 9:58 pm

Jerry Carlson's comments seem reasonable...until one starts to look under the surface. Of the $1.86M/year Louise Ho says is generated from the Parcel Tax ($750 per household, save a few exceptions), about one third (or $250 per household) is going to fund the massive litigation budget at Atherton for all the frivolous lawsuits. Atherton has estimated at least $500K for litigation for next year, and every year I've looked, the budget has increased dramatically mid year. 1/3 of $1.86M will probably underestimate next year's litigation costs.

Does each home owner want to pay $250/year for the Town of Atherton to generate lawsuits over urns, people moving into homes, suing sports teams on fields, trying to bury the former finance director, police hr and misconduct etc. etc. etc.?

How the $*!$*! can this be justified? There's a lot better use of $250/year, either for a resident's own personal enjoyment, savings, or charitable endeavors.

Andrea Gemmet, why don't you ask Jerry Carlson to comment on these indisputable facts and figures?

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