Atherton council won't cut parcel tax


Although Atherton is in better financial shape than it has been for years, residents should still pay the full amount of the parcel tax they approved in 2013, the City Council has decided, because the town has so many capital improvement projects waiting.

Atherton's City Council on June 17 approved a town budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 and set the parcel tax rate, which is $750 a year for homes on lots of between one-half and two acres.

One major project council members say they are dreading is spending as much as $30 million on drainage improvements, especially on Marsh Road.

"I think it's become time to pay the piper" after years of deferring needed projects, Councilman Mike Lempres said. "We have tremendous needs right now."

Councilman Bill Widmer was the only council member who voted against the parcel tax proposal. "I'm against assessing the full extent of the parcel tax," he said. Instead, he said, the town should replace it with some unanticipated, and probably one-time, income from a sales tax/use tax and a no-longer-needed reserve fund.

Councilman Cary Wiest said reducing the parcel tax could delay necessary repairs and improvements and cost the town more in the long run because costs could escalate.

See the staff report on the parcel tax and the budget on the town website.

Athletic field

In other business, the council had been expected to discuss an appeal by Menlo College and Menlo School to modify the use permit for the athletic field the two schools share. The modification would allow a limited number of baseball games to be played on Sundays.

The appeal was withdrawn before the meeting. A June 16 letter says the college will "make other arrangements" for make-up baseball games.

The school and college had originally asked Atherton's Planning Commission to alter their use permit to allow games and sports camps on Sundays, which they admit they had been doing for years, even though their use permit forbade it.

Opposition from neighbors reduced the request to simply permitting up to five Sunday make-up baseball games a year, but Atherton's Planning Commission denied that application.

The school and college want to do major renovations on Cartan Field. In late 2012 they proposed demolishing and rebuilding the field and all of its facilities, but withdrew the application after the town asked for an environmental impact report.

The town said it will also make sure that a public address system, also outlawed by the use permit, is not being used on the field.

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17 people like this
Posted by John McGraw
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jun 23, 2015 at 1:33 pm

There is nothing more permanent than a temporary tax!!!

11 people like this
Posted by Last legs
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jun 23, 2015 at 1:50 pm

John, there will be very substantial opposition to renewing the tax next election given the council has broken its word about only levying it if revenues are less than expenses.

4 people like this
Posted by Scholar
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jun 23, 2015 at 2:32 pm

Similar thing in Menlo Park, where some in the city government want to resurrect projects just because there is money around. Same thing in Sacramento where Brown and others recently raised our state sales tax to cure their deficits and now even Brown is fighting the State Legislature's impulse for spending instead of saving. It's apalling how so many of these politicos fail to represent us by their wanton lack of financial prudence.

Like this comment
Posted by Member
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jun 23, 2015 at 6:38 pm

Keeping the parcel tax and making needed improvements throughout the city is good for the town and its residents. I applaud the council for their decision.

Like this comment
Posted by H. S. Truman
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jun 23, 2015 at 7:00 pm

…said: "the only thing new in this world is the history you don't know."

Is raising taxes based on than notion that the incremental spend is going towards worthy items something new?

Of course not. It's used every time any tax has ever been raised in the history of the world.

What this time-honored rationale does leave out, however, is all the other money being wasted on things the politicos aren't talking about.

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

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