With the defeat of the parcel tax on November 7, 2017, the Atherton City Council will have to make strategic and tough financial decisions. I have the utmost confidence in this Council to make the right choices for our Town. I believe that every member of this Council is committed to putting the safety and security of our residents first and foremost as listed here:
* Police services for public safety, traffic and schools are our top priority;
* Critical repairs for facilities, road, and flooding;
* Disaster preparedness programs are also at the top of the list.
This Council will find a way to balance the competing priorities and fiscal commitments to complete the Town Center project and continue to provide our residents with the safety and security they expect and deserve.
There may be some belt-tightening on capital projects that are non-essential. Projects that are “enhancements” to our overall Town’s wellbeing, such as some bicycle and pedestrian projects, and park projects that are more amenities than immediate needs, can be pared down and balanced against available resources and higher priorities.
We will find ways to reduce the costs of the Town Center project, if necessary, by either eliminating some of its community amenity features or by delaying portions of the project through phasing.
This collegial and collaborative City Council is up to the task. We work well together; and, we are committed to doing the right thing for all Atherton residents.
It was the right decision to go out to the voters to renew the long-standing parcel tax this November 2017, just as every other Atherton City Council has done since 1978.
Revenue from the parcel tax has over the years provided restricted funds for police services and critical public works projects. The dedicated parcel tax revenue has also allowed the Town to use other, ad hoc revenue, as it became available, to address other priorities such as long-term debt, reserves, and one-time capital needs. These are all priorities in a solid financial future for the Town.
But times have changed. The Town’s revenue stream from secured property taxes has clearly increased over the years. It is my personal opinion that going out again next June 2018 for a parcel tax does not make good sense. The results of the November election indicate to me that most residents fundamentally believe that the Town has sufficient revenue to address not only the Town Center project, but also public safety and capital projects without the parcel tax.
This financial security is only possible if the Town once again becomes dependent on ERAF funds from the State to bridge the gap. Several years ago Council made the wise decision to become non-dependent on State revenues that could be significantly reduced or eliminated in any given year. Council decided to remove ERAF funds from the operational revenue budget and used them solely as surplus funds for one-time capital projects, long-term liabilities, or reserves. Without the parcel tax revenue, the ERAF funds become a necessary part of the Town's financial base.
We are now in the midst of completing the largest and most important capital improvement project in our history – the rebuilding of our Town Center. In June of this year, over 60% of the residents who voted, approved the prudent use of existing surplus general funds to supplement the generous private donations received to build our new Town Center. This will be done with thoughtful planning and execution.
You can be assured that I will continue to do my very best for everyone in the Town, and I wholeheartedly believe that all of the other Council Members will do the same.