Atherton puts parcel tax on fall ballot


Atherton voters will be asked to approve a four-year renewal of the $750 annual parcel tax when they head to the polls on Nov. 3. The Atherton City Council voted unanimously at its July 15 meeting to put the parcel tax on the ballot.

Atherton officials have been casting about for years to find a replacement for the special parcel tax, an annual levy that helps fund town services and capital projects. This spring, the council even commissioned pollsters Godbe Research to canvas residents about replacing the parcel tax with a utility-users tax. However, it looks like the income tax-deductible parcel tax remains Atherton residents' preferred form of municipal taxation.

The current parcel tax measure, approved by voters in February 2005, expires June 30, 2010. For the typical Atherton homeowner, the parcel tax costs $750 annually. Residents of small lots must pay $450 a year, and those with lots larger than 2 acres are charged $960.

The rates would remain the same in the parcel tax renewal measure, which would run from July 2010 to June 2014. The measure requires a 2/3 yes vote in order to pass.

According to the town's ballot language, the parcel tax renewal measure would "continue providing funding to maintain neighborhood police patrols and the town's ability to respond to emergencies, repairing and maintaining streets, and repairing and constructing storm drains."

At the July 15 meeting, the council also voted unanimously to authorize a search for a consultant to help construct a public education campaign about the parcel tax. The obliquely worded agenda item sought permission to solicit proposals for "public information consulting services related to public education of services, policy and programs provided by the town." Council members had to ask for an explanation.

Assistant City Manager Eileen Wilkerson explained that the consultants would develop a strategy and message to provide the public with information on the effects of the upcoming parcel tax -- in a totally neutral way, of course.


Like this comment
Posted by sara palin
a resident of another community
on Jul 16, 2009 at 10:53 pm

If you ask me those folks in Atherton are trying to put lipstick on a pig

Like this comment
Posted by Just vote NO
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 17, 2009 at 4:01 pm

It is time for the residents to stand up and let the town know they are sick and tired of paying for corruption. Scaring people that "there will not be emergency services so you better pay up" is wrong. It is time to send a strong message to those who abuse moneys and are fiscally irresponsible! NO ON PARCEL TAX!

Like this comment
Posted by jerome
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jul 17, 2009 at 10:43 pm

The town is having to spend a small fortune on attorneys because of a couple of former town employees who forgot their place.

I for one consider $500,000 per year on lawyers a small price to pay.

I know I may be in the minority. But I think it is high time we stand firm. If we have to spend $1 million to avoid paying out 1/2 that amount I think it is a good investment.

So what if the lawers make $300 per hour. They are worth evey penny.

Like this comment
Posted by bill avery
a resident of another community
on Jul 17, 2009 at 11:01 pm

When Jim Robinson was city manager, the parcel tax passed by over 80%

and that was without the help of a PR firm.

What is wrong with this picture?

Like this comment
Posted by $500,000
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jul 18, 2009 at 1:19 pm

Every time the Town of Atherton has set a budget for legal fees, it has been vastly exceeded. They just added $120,000 to cover through the end of the year. The requested $500,000 for next year will no doubt be increased mid-year. I estimate to nearly $1M.

Of course, if Atherton's lawsuits were just limited to those with former employees, the bill would be less. They've gotten entangled in lawsuits with residents over moving urns, inspections errors on Atherton's part that have prevented people from moving into their own homes, and police misconduct issues.

Again, it's not "their" money. It's "our" money. I think Mr. Gruber should either resign or be fired. When he took the job, there was already an acute awareness that Atherton's legal issues were spiraling out of control. Since he's come on board, the issues have gotten much, much worse. It can really be plotted as a simple function of legal bills.

One might thing the Town Council should be blamed (and they should), but it's been pointed out time and time again that their only function is to hire and fire the town manager, and all other issues flow through him or her.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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