Almanac

News - June 4, 2014

Will Atherton reduce its parcel tax?

by Renee Batti

The town's parcel tax, its ongoing effort to improve safety for pedestrians and bicyclists on El Camino Real, and its five-year capital improvement program are on the agenda for the Atherton City Council's June 4 study session, which begins at 4 p.m.

As the 2014-15 fiscal year budget nears finalization, the council will be asked for direction on key questions related to the parcel tax. The tax, which was renewed by voters last November, raises about $1.86 million annually; the council established a policy several years ago that 60 percent of the tax revenue be spent on police services, and 40 percent be allocated to capital projects. The council must authorize implementation of the tax every year, as well as the taxation level.

In their staff report for the item on Wednesday's agenda, the town manager and the finance director ask council members to consider two options: One would reduce the tax — now at $750 annually for the average parcel — by 25 percent; the other would tax property owners at the full rate. Under each option, the tax revenue allocation would change to 80 percent for capital projects, with 20 percent spent on adding two sworn officers to the police department.

If the council chooses to reduce the tax, the allocation for the police officers wouldn't change, but fewer capital projects would be funded.

Prior to the parcel tax discussion, the council will review capital projects town management has identified as significant over the next five years, and that discussion is likely to help guide which tax option the council will support.

The council will also be updated on the town's efforts, working with Caltrans, to address safety issues on Atherton's 1.6-mile segment of El Camino Real, where a number of serious, sometimes fatal, injuries to pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists have occurred over the last several years.

The meeting will be held in the Town Council Chambers at 94 Ashfield Road, in the Town Center.

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