News

Atherton parcel tax opposition fizzles

(Expanded version of an earlier story)

Opposition to Measure X -- Atherton's parcel tax-renewal measure on last week's ballot -- failed to gather steam, judging by the election results that showed nearly 74 percent of voters in support.

The measure needed a two-thirds majority vote to pass. With its passage, the tax of $750 annually for typical homeowners will be renewed for four more years after the current tax expires June 30, 2014.

The vote count as of late last week was 1,332 in favor, 477 opposed. The county will update election tallies again on Nov. 12, according to the Elections Office.

The tax has been in place since 1980, according to the town. Four years ago, it was renewed by 77.4 percent of voters.

With no commercial tax base, the town has relied heavily on the parcel tax, which raises about $1.8 million annually. The revenue supports police services, which receive 60 percent, and public works projects, which get the remainder.

A group of residents had submitted a ballot argument opposed to Measure X, but missed the deadline, so no opposition argument appeared in the voters' guide publication. That group included former City Council member Kathy McKeithen and Sandy Crittenden, who argued, among other things, that the town no longer needs the tax because of ever-rising property tax revenue.

"I believe that the property tax revenue is going to continue to increase, and they'll be able to take care of all the expenses of the town," Mr. Crittenden told the Almanac before the election.

But supporters argued that the town has deferred public works projects that should be undertaken now that its financial health has significantly improved. Some of these projects are urgent, they say, including stabilization and improvement of the Marsh Road Channel at a projected cost of between $2.11 million and $2.86 million.

Also, they argued, the City Council has to set the tax rate every year, up to the maximum allowed by the voter-approved measure. Several council members have talked publicly about the possibility of suspending the tax or lowering the rate at times when it appears the town has sufficient funds to provide services and perform needed public works projects in the following fiscal year.

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