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November 02, 2005

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Publication Date: Wednesday, November 02, 2005

EDITORIAL: Vote yes on Portola Valley utility tax EDITORIAL: Vote yes on Portola Valley utility tax (November 02, 2005)

The Portola Valley residents who disagree with the Town Council's plan to spend utility users tax funds on preliminary work to plan a new Town Center have chosen a disappointing tactic to make their point.

Rather than run candidates in the current election, or confront council members face to face in a public forum with what appear to be unfounded charges of ethical misbehavior, this group is attacking passage of Measures H and I, the 5.5 percent utility tax and its companion, a 2 percent tax to purchase open space.

By doing so, the group is jeopardizing a revenue stream that pays for 17 percent of the town's expenditures. Without it, Town Administrator Angie Howard says she doesn't know how she would balance the town's budget.

We agree with many residents who say the Town Council did not do a great job in reaching out to all the residents to explain a Town Center plan that involves significant financing challenges. But the process has been open, well-reported in this newspaper, and has come about after a thorough analysis of the options.

In our opinion, the town has no choice: it must build a new complex away from the main fault line. And although the $20 million price tag seems high, when compared to the cost of many Portola Valley dwellings, it hardly shocks.

If those opposed to the project believe a public building can be had for less, there are still opportunities for them to state their case as the process moves along, such as the November 7 meeting of the Architecture & Site Control Commission.

But our concern is that a successful tax challenge could put the town in a financial bind and weaken a council that has acted responsibly and in the interest of the current and future staff and residents, both young and old.

We believe Town Council members who have pledged that future utility tax revenues will be used for operating expenses only, not the Town Center project. And we question why those challenging the tax do not accept the council's word, rather than stirring up a wrong-headed and spiteful campaign that threatens to choke off such an important revenue source for the town.

Opponents of the new Town Center have had and will have plenty of time to add their constructive criticism, without jeopardizing the utility tax, which was first approved in 1985, and renewed in 1993, 1997 and 2001.

There is no reason to interrupt what everyone believes is a fair and necessary tax. We urge Portola Valley voters to approve Measures H and I on November 8.
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