Almanac

News - August 14, 2013

Atherton removes Circus Club tax hike from ballot measure

by Renee Batti

After hearing from a number of unhappy residents and having second thoughts about a July 17 decision on the town's parcel tax, the Atherton City Council last week voted to place renewal of the tax on the November ballot, without the 150 percent increase for the Menlo Circus Club that it had approved at the July meeting.

The Aug. 7 vote was unanimous. The parcel tax renewal measure that voters will be asked to approve leaves the tax rate at the same level it has been at since 2001, with most property owners of parcels that include a dwelling paying $750 per parcel annually, a small number of owners whose houses are on smaller-than-average lots paying between $450 to $570, and the Menlo Circus Club paying $10,000.

At the earlier meeting, the council approved a ballot measure to renew the tax for four years at the existing rate except for the Circus Club's, which would have risen to $25,000 from $10,000 annually — an increase all four council members endorsed at the time. There had been no prior indication — or notice given to the Circus Club — that the increase was being considered, and no increase for the club was included in the three options suggested in a written staff report to the council.

After that meeting, Mayor Elizabeth Lewis said that, in hindsight, she was uncomfortable with the decision and wanted the council to reconsider it. At the Aug. 7 meeting, the council was required to approve reconsideration of the matter, which it did unanimously before supporting a new ballot measure keeping all rates at their existing levels.

The vote represented a turnaround for Councilman Jim Dobbie, who in July voted against the overall measure — although he argued for the Circus Club increase. He was opposed to the measure at the time, he said, because he believes taxing all homeowners at the same rate is more fair than the stepped rates that are based on size of parcel. "The parcel tax provides services, and you get those services no matter what size (your lot) is," he said.

In voting to approve the measure last week, Mr. Dobbie said, "I didn't want to be the person they blamed" if the measure were to fail because people organized a campaign against in protest of the Circus Club increase. "There had been a lot of publicity about (the earlier decision to increase the rate), and a lot of members of the Circus Club were raising hell," he said. "For an extra $15,000, I didn't think it was worth it."

Mr. Dobbie, Mayor Lewis and Councilman Bill Widmer, who voted remotely during a teleconference from the East Coast, emphasized the need to begin studying alternative sources of revenue for the town, which has no commercial tax base and relies on the parcel tax for more than $1.8 million of its $10.4 million operating budget.

The parcel tax is set to expire at the end of June 2014. Revenue from the tax is divided between police services, which receives 60 percent, and public works projects.

Comments

Posted by digging a hole, a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 14, 2013 at 7:30 pm

Jim Dobbie states. "In voting to approve the measure last week, Mr. Dobbie said, "I didn't want to be the person they blamed" if the measure were to fail because people organized a campaign against in protest of the Circus Club increase. "There had been a lot of publicity about (the earlier decision to increase the rate), and a lot of members of the Circus Club were raising hell," he said. "For an extra $15,000, I didn't think it was worth it."

Dobbie now digs a bigger hole equating his vote to $15,000. He blames the mysterious (straw members)Circus Club people raising hell but ignores the fact that the item was not properly on the agenda and no notice given for public comment. So here is a council member who insults the "process" of governance by ignoring it and then turns around and explains his vote in monetary terms as "not worth it" if he should be blamed if the meansure fails.
Mr Dobbie, you need to blamed no matter what happens.


Posted by Agreed, a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 14, 2013 at 9:40 pm

I agree with you, and felt it was fair to tax the Circus Club $15,000. Dobbie needs to figure out where he stands on things, or give others the chance to serve.


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