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.