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City Council Intends to Abuse Parcel Tax Ordinance

Original post made by Disenfranchised taxpayer, Atherton: other, on Jun 16, 2015

Atherton's voters passed a parcel tax ordinance 581 that restricts the City Council's ability to assess a parcel tax. The ordinance requires that the City Council may not assess a parcel tax if the amount of funds generated through other revenue and income is satisfactory to pay for public safety, street repair/maintenance and drainage repair.

This year, Atherton's general fund spent $800,000 less than revenue brought in, PLUS $1.2M from educational revenue augmentation funds, for a total surplus of $2M.

Despite the surplus of $2M, the city council (except for Bill Widmer) intends to assess the full parcel tax of $1.86M. Despite campaign promises during the last election that if the parcel tax passed, the city council would not assess the full amount (which the ordinance requires anyway), Lewis, Degolia, Lemperes and Wiest are blithely proceeding as if no surplus exists.

It involves some accounting "tricks", or morel like fraud. For example, they have concluded that the $1.2M received from ERAF isn't really revenue, since the state could stop providing the funds in the future. This might be a reasonable argument to project NEXT YEAR's parcel tax, but it's an absurd one for this year's.

The other trick is claiming that $500K of the surplus must go for capital improvements to the new town center that hasn't even been built yet. This also seems to be a violation of the other ballot measure for the town center that specifies only private donations, not public monies, can go to build the town center. Thus far, an appreciable amount of public money (if this $500K goes through, close to $1M) has been spent on the town center, and ZERO from private donations. It will probably be necessary to take Atherton to court to force it to stop disobeying the voter referendum on the town center.

Atherton voters should insist that the council not violate the law and its campaign promises, and not assess any parcel tax this year. As for drainage, considerable reserves exist from which repairs can be made. What is happening here is these rogue city council members are attempting to transmorph the parcel tax from its intended purpose into a perpetual source of revenue for more and more spending projects. Atherton voters have worked too hard for their money, and should demand better.


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