Atherton Parcel Tax: Yes or NO
Original post made by Peter Carpenter on Jul 31, 2013
For my part there are fundamental questions about the parcel tax itself which the council failed to address that are quite troubling. The parcel tax has become an addiction for Atherton and far too little thought has been given to simply living within the very generous revenue stream of property taxes created the by the existing tax base plus the very expensive new construction and very expensive sales of existing homes.
The parcel tax is constantly presented as a vote on the Atherton Police Department - the staff report states "The parcel tax is a significant portion of the Town's total revenue, making possible the funding of the police department at its current levels as well as certain capital improvements."
This ignores the fundamental principles of good management and budgeting that require looking at every expenditure based on its merits. It also assumes that the town's primary source of revenue, property taxes, somehow does not and should not pay for police services.
If police services are really so important then they should be paid for entirely by property taxes and everything that is left unfunded should be funded or not based on the parcel tax vote.
A parcel tax is a vote of confidence in the town council and its ability to perform collectively in the best interests of the town rather than the best interests of individual council members. There is certainly lots of evidence to suggest that this council has not and cannot work in a collaborative manner.
These are some of my current thoughts and I encourage others, both proponents and opponents, to add theirs.
on Jul 31, 2013 at 8:05 pm
I see two issues:
1. Do Atherton residents want to pay a parcel tax in order to maintain an Atherton police department instead of outsourcing police?
Proponents (more on that later) say definitely, a survey has been done. But the last survey kept pestering a respondent to say "yes" if he initially voted "no" on the parcel tax by imploring him about how essential it is. That's not surveying, that's persuading. It's no different than if the survey kept saying "Why? We can outsource the police, pay no parcel tax, and, according to the grand jury, get service at least as good" if he said "yes" initially.
Clearly if the proponents of the parcel tax were so confident of the will of Atherton's residents, they wouldn't need to rig a survey.
2. Let's assume Atherton residents actually do want an independent Atherton police department. Does that mean Atherton has to pay more than going rate for police officers?
The APOA and proponents say yes, because if we won't, Atherton officers will go elsewhere, etc. etc.
To me, this is a much more cut and dry issue. We shouldn't be paying more than going rate. We shouldn't be making an employee contribution to retirement in addition to an employer contribution.
Where everything becomes cloudy is when the financially vested individuals, the police officers, are donating money to council members who decide these issues, and trying to control Atherton elections. Other vested individuals include [portion deleted] a small group of residents who have traditionally gotten special treatment from the police department.
They are very vocal, spend a lot of money to get what they want, and are used to throwing their weight around. It's worked so far.
on Aug 19, 2013 at 2:45 pm
The residents of Atherton deserve better treatment than they are getting now. The council is spending money like it is free. It comes from the citizens and should be treated respectfully, and not wastefully.
The Special Parcel Tax supplements the Town's budget, of which the largest component is police services. Why should we not have a discussion regarding police services and the price we are paying for police services? Why has this council and prior councils been afraid to ask the Sheriff for a quote for like-kind services? Afraid that we may lose control? We have an overcompensated police department run with to much administration office staff. Outsourcing police services automatically eliminates the chief, sergeants, inspectors and their secretaries. Even paying the sheriff deputies more money than the current police results in a drastic savings.
How many millions of our tax dollars have already been wasted on the non-outsourced. Imaging what that money could have been used for. Better paved streets, better drainage, better maintained parks and common areas. The possibilities are endless.
Atherton does not have their own fire department. We have outsourced this service to the Menlo Park Fire District. Their service is superior. Our fireman are the best trained in the nation. They travel worldwide offering rescue and emergency services. All outsourced.
Should the parcel tax pass, we will miss this opportunity to have the critical discussion. The council will continue to over-fund our questionably effective and honest protectors of our safety. Remember the dirty cops this department has had? They are the ones who were caught. What else has happened that have never reached the public's view?
The San Mateo County Sheriff is better trained, they are professional. They are the agency we call when our police can't handle the situation, like the last murder in this town. Why are we keeping a police force costing so much more than any other municipality when we can get so much more for so much less?
Oppose the special parcel tax until the council considers outsourcing police services.
on Aug 19, 2013 at 2:54 pm
Peter Carpenter is a registered user.
"Atherton does not have their own fire department. We have outsourced this service to the Menlo Park Fire District. Their service is superior. Our fireman are the best trained in the nation. They travel worldwide offering rescue and emergency services. All outsourced."
Sandy is right about the quality of our fire and medical response services - THE MPFPD IS superb. However, Atherton did not outsource this role to MPFPD;the Fire District was created as a special district on September 16, 1915 - well before Atherton, Menlo Park and East Palo Alto were even established.
And the Fire District operates with a balanced budget and without a parcel tax or any sales tax.