Atherton City Councilman Rick DeGolia said at a Nov. 2 council study session that he thinks it is "inevitable" that the town will have to ask voters to rescind an earlier ballot measure restricting the use of public money for its new civic center because private donations to pay for it are not coming in.
Mr. DeGolia said that he thinks a measure changing that restriction must be put on the ballot next spring.
The study session was part of the council's attempt to follow through on a promise made soon after the town's parcel tax was passed in 2013 to investigate replacing it with other revenue sources such as a business license tax, a utility users tax or a real property transfer tax. The parcel tax, which brings in about $1.86 million a year for the town, expires in mid-2018.
If the voters are asked to approve spending public money on a civic center on a spring ballot, Mr. DeGolia said, the town could add an advisory measure on the various tax alternatives.
Council members heard at the meeting that state law governing the timing of elections means that any new tax measure could not be voted on until November 2018. That could put pressure on the town to put on the November 2017 ballot a renewal of the existing parcel tax to avoid having a six-month period when the town would receive no revenue from that tax or a replacement tax.
City Attorney Bill Conners told the council that the town could structure a parcel tax measure so that the tax would be eliminated if another tax is later approved.
Council members asked City Manager George Rodericks to consider what they might need a consultant to do to explore a business license tax, a utility users tax, or a real property transfer tax for Atherton.
A real property transfer tax, which would be charged when real estate changes hands, could be imposed only if Atherton becomes a charter city, operating under its own charter instead of under general law as it now does. The city had considered becoming a charter city in the past and decided not to pursue it. Becoming a charter city requires voter approval.
Mr. Rodericks said the town will also get more information on three other revenue-raising options:
• Creating benefit assessment districts, which charge the residents of an area of the town for improvements such as drainage or lighting that benefit their area;.
• Charging a higher refuse franchise fee.
• Taking another look at fees paid by those who use Holbrook-Palmer Park.