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 two acres are charged $960.
The rates would remain the same with the parcel tax renewal measure, which would be effective July 2010 through June 2014. The measure requires a two-thirds vote of support 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."
Atherton officials have been casting about for years to find a replacement for the parcel tax, an annual levy that helps fund town services and capital projects. This spring, the council commissioned the pollster Godbe Research to canvas residents about replacing the parcel tax with a utility users tax.
However, it looks as if the income tax-deductible parcel tax remains Atherton residents' preferred form of municipal taxation.
The timing isn't right for trying out a new utility tax, Mayor Jerry Carlson told The Almanac. "I think it's been put on the back burner," he said. "It's an interesting idea, but from a timing standpoint, it didn't make sense to spend scarce staff resources and council time on it."
At the July 15 meeting, the council also voted unanimously to authorize a search for a consultant to help build 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 said that the consultants would develop a strategy and message to provide the public with information on the effects of the parcel tax in a neutral way.