Almanac

Viewpoint - October 23, 2013

Editorial: No reason not to approve parcel tax

Despite its ranking as one of the most affluent ZIP codes in the country, Atherton's local government has often struggled to meet its budget obligations. And one way it has traditionally made up for its lack of income is by asking voters every four years to approve a $750 annual parcel tax. The money in recent years has been split 60-40 between police and public works improvements. Four years ago, the parcel tax was approved with a 77.4 percent margin.

This election, the tax is once again on the ballot, and has attracted some opponents who say the town is in much better financial shape than it was in 010, so consequently voters don't need to impose the tax on themselves.

All four City Council members (a fifth will be elected Nov. 5) have endorsed the tax. Although they submitted their arguments too late to be included in the voter guide, a small group of parcel tax opponents, including former City Council member Kathy McKeithen, has surfaced. Although some may have other reasons, the core goal of this effort is to force a discussion of outsourcing the police department. In addition, they say the city has plenty of revenue and can easily get by without the tax.

In our view, there is no reason not to pass the tax, which can be adjusted by the council every year, from zero to the entire amount. But today's budget surplus in Atherton may be gone next year, and if there is no parcel tax, the town will have to cover all police costs and whatever public works are planned out of the general fund.

And even if the town has signed a favorable labor agreement with the Atherton Police Officers' Association, which will save about 5 percent or more over last year, it still makes sense to approve the parcel tax. We doubt if the $750 annual levy will create a significant hardship for any resident, and the council can certainly cut back the assessment anytime it wants. We urge Atherton residents to approve the parcel tax on Nov. 5.

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