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    Barry's Avatar
    Founder & Moderator

    Voter Guide: Measure Y - Sebastopol 1/2 cent tax increase

    Here's a PD editorial again Measure Y, because of the cumulative tax increases when combined with Prop 30, and Sebastopol Council member Michael Keyes rebuttal. I wonder if the PD just assumed that Sebastopol starves!

    PD Editorial: Timing is wrong for local sales tax hike

    Published: Saturday, October 13, 2012 at 3:00 a.m.

    At the bottom of their Nov. 6 ballots, voters in Healdsburg and Sebastopol will find a local sales tax increase.

    In Healdsburg, voters will be deciding on Measure V, a half-cent tax to help the city balance its books and replace funds lost when Gov. Jerry Brown eliminated redevelopment agencies statewide.

    In Sebastopol, voters will be deciding on Measure Y, a half-cent sales tax intended for much the same purpose. Sebastopol officials say they've lost roughly $1.5 million from state pilfering. Measure Y would boost Sebastopol's sales tax from 8.25 percent to 8.75 percent — the highest in Sonoma County — bringing in roughly $1 million a year for the next eight years. Although it's a general tax, so the purposes cannot be specified, city officials say the intent is to use the funds to fill a vacancy in its police force, restore other staffing and maintain streets.

    Meanwhile, Healdsburg is looking for a $1 million increase in annual revenue by raising its sales tax from 8 percent to 8.5 percent for 10 years. City officials argue that they've done all they can to bring down expenses, reduce staff — an overall 18 percent reduction — and reduce benefit costs by, among other things, negotiating a two-tier benefit system. But they still face an $800,000 deficit in the upcoming budget.

    “It boils down to the fact that communities are going to have to depend more on themselves,” Mayor Gary Plass said in arguing in favor of the tax increase.

    We have no disagreement with that. We also have no problem with cities seeking new ways to pay for major infrastructure projects that previously had been funded through redevelopment agencies.

    We have some concerns about the pension liabilities that continue to hamper both communities. But our primary disagreement with these measures concerns their timing. It couldn't be worse. In this election, voters will be deciding on a number of revenue-generating measures that, in our view, take priority. Most notably, voters will be deciding on Proposition 30, a quarter-cent statewide sales tax, which would provide $6 billion in much-needed revenue and prevent trigger cuts that would result in a loss of $5 billion in funding for K-12 schools statewide. Voters also will be deciding on other measures to boost or maintain local education funding and infrastructure. This includes Measure O, a parcel tax to provide funding for programs, teachers and books for the Sebastopol Union School District.

    We've strongly encouraged voters to support these measures as they address our state's greatest needs.

    Furthermore, voters should be given an opportunity to see the cumulative effects of these measures before being asked to approve other funding. Depending on the outcome of Proposition 30 — let alone Proposition 38, a competing tax measure supporting education — Sebastopol, for example, could be seeing its sales tax increase to 9 percent, not 8.75 percent.

    If voters choose to support these tax increases, we believe they can do so with confidence that the money will be spent wisely. But our concern is that the majority of voters, while willing to support some tax measures, don't have the ability to support them all. As such, we encourage voters to give the priority to those that bolster education, and we recommend a no vote on measures V and Y.

    GUEST OPINION: The PD is wrong about Sebastopol's Measure Y

    Published: Friday, October 19, 2012 at 7:14 p.m.
    The Press Democrat's recent editorial (“Timing is wrong for local sales tax hikes,” Oct. 13) in opposition to Sebastopol's Measure Y is wrong on many counts, most fundamentally the basic facts. As noted in its correction, the PD incorrectly identified the statewide sales tax rate increase proposed in Proposition 30, which is in fact a quarter percent increase.

    If both Measure Y and Proposition 30 pass, Sebastopol's cumulative sales tax rate will be 9 percent, a quarter-percent less than what Sebastopol shoppers were paying just over a year ago, before the sunsetting of the state's supplemental sales tax. Sebastopol's Measure Y will cost an average family of four approximately $4 a month.

    So what will this $4 for a family of four buy?

    It is local government, in this case the city of Sebastopol, that delivers the most basic and important services that effect our lives every day. The city of Sebastopol maintains our street and sewers, delivers water to our taps, supports a police department that ensures our safety and provides a fire department that not only puts out fires but also delivers an extremely rapid response emergency medical team. Additionally, our public works department maintains our parks; our building department ensures that our businesses and homes are safe for habitation, and our planning department ensures that development is appropriate and will not further clog our streets.

    The Press Democrat tells us that the timing is wrong to ask Sebastopol voters to support both streets that are drivable and schools that are viable. If that $4 a month for a family too much to pay to guarantee that our basic city services continue to be viable? When would be a better time?

    Thanks to the shenanigans on Wall Street that caused a global economic mess, as well as the gridlock in Sacramento, local government is getting the short end to the stick. We should work to fix these underlying problems. But, in the meantime, there are lives that need saving, schools that need funding, roads that need paving and fires that must be doused.

    If we were to grow our taxable retail sales into raising the additional $1 million that the city needs rather than raise our sales tax rate, we would need to increase taxable retail sales in Sebastopol by $100 millions, nearly double our existing sales. What would we buy. Where would we park?

    The city of Sebastopol has already cut its services to the bone. Our city staff has made many concessions. Their hours have been cut, and they are contributing significantly to their pensions. They are in the lower end of the pay spectrum compared to other public employees in the county.

    Contrary to The Press Democrat's assertion, Sebastopol does not have unfunded pension liabilities. Sebastopol, like other cities, has seen its pension liabilities balloon. The city has and will continue to pay its pension liabilities. All of our pension liabilities are funded.

    The PD editorial questions the timing of Measure Y and the ability of some people to pay the cumulative taxes from all the measures on the ballot. In Sebastopol, seniors on fixed incomes may have difficulty paying school parcel taxes. However, they can get an exemption from paying these taxes if they need it. They should vote in favor of school taxes knowing that an exemption is available to them if needed.

    For some reason, The Press Democrat doesn't believe that Sebastopol's citizens are either informed enough or responsible enough to make the right decisions. I disagree.

    I do completely agree with the editorial when it states that the voters can have “confidence that the money will be spent wisely.” Please vote yes on Measure Y.

    Michael Kyes is vice mayor for the city of Sebastopol.

    Full text and impartial analysis and options for and against from the League of Women Voter's here.

    What do you think?
    Last edited by Barry; 11-01-2012 at 08:03 AM.
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