News

Palo Alto stays on course for November tax measure

Despite trepidations, City Council supports crafting ballot language, conducting more polls

The Palo Alto City Council agreed Tuesday to plod ahead toward a November tax measure, despite significant reservations from several members about the proposal on the table.

The council voted 7-1, with Lydia Kou absent and Greg Tanaka dissenting, to approve additional polling for a tax measure that would help close a projected $76 million backlog in the city's 2014 Infrastructure Plan, a list of projects that includes a new public-safety building, two rebuilt fire stations, two new garages, a bike bridge over U.S. Highway 101 and various bike-improvement projects.

Consistent with the recommendation from its Finance Committee, the council agreed that the poll should focus specifically on the transient-occupancy tax (also known as a "hotel tax") and the real-estate transfer tax (which is paid during real estate transactions). The council is considering raising the hotel tax from 14 percent to 16 percent, making it the highest in California, according to staff (Anaheim is next with 15 percent). The real-estate tax would be raised by $1.10 for every $1,000 in property value.

The council also agreed to explore in the new poll the residents' willingness to support a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.

The council's general consensus about moving ahead with the poll belied members' widespread frustrations with the process. Council members Tom DuBois and Karen Holman each made the case that the menu of options presented by the Finance Committee is too meager. DuBois said the city should have been exploring a business tax, an idea that Palo Alto last considered in 2009 (voters rejected the proposed tax, which would have been imposed on gross receipts).

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"It's the elephant in the room and we didn't ask any question on that, which seems crazy," DuBois said.

Councilwoman Lydia Kou, who was in China and who participated by phone, proposed scrapping the real-estate transfer tax from consideration and looking only at the hotel tax in the new poll. She also proposed creating a special council task force to consider the infrastructure challenges and taking a fresh look at the list of projects and seeing which should be scrapped or reprioritized.

"I think we need to be more transparent and really involve the community as well as ensure we explore all options, and not just take a handful," Kou said.

Tanaka, the council's most stringent fiscal conservative, vehemently opposed the measure and repeatedly accused staff of being wasteful with residents' money. Calling the infrastructure measure "totally inappropriate," Tanaka argued that the city needs to first prove to its residents that it has done everything it can to save money. He pointed to the council's tradition of donating used firetrucks to Oaxaca, Mexico, Palo Alto's sister city, and its proposal to transfer a portion of the city's water allocation to East Palo Alto (an action the council is expected to approve next week) as evidence of fiscal waste.

A proposed tax, he argued, is essentially an insult to residents.

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"We're telling them, you have plenty of money, we'll soak you any time we want," Tanaka said. "We're not treating constituents with respect because we don't have our house in order; because we haven't prioritized our projects, we haven't tried to value engineer, we give away property and equipment."

While he voted against the motion, the rest of the council agreed to march ahead. The council directed the firm FM3 Research to move ahead with the next round of polls. The firm's initial polls found that the majority of residents would likely support a hotel tax and by a slimmer margin a real estate transfer tax. It had also found that voters would likely reject parcel taxes or sales-tax hikes. The poll provided the basis for Finance Committee's recommendation.

Councilman Greg Scharff, who chairs the Finance Committee, argued during committee meetings that the measure is a needed tool to complete the council's infrastructure program at a time of steep escalations in construction costs. Public Works staff have estimated that every month of delay to the public-safety building project adds about $350,000 to the cost.

Scharff called the proposed increases to the hotel- and real-estate transfer tax rates "realistic approaches to how we fund our infrastructure."

"The biggest threat is delay," Scharff said. "The costs of these things mount as we delay."

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Palo Alto stays on course for November tax measure

Despite trepidations, City Council supports crafting ballot language, conducting more polls

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, May 1, 2018, 10:49 am

The Palo Alto City Council agreed Tuesday to plod ahead toward a November tax measure, despite significant reservations from several members about the proposal on the table.

The council voted 7-1, with Lydia Kou absent and Greg Tanaka dissenting, to approve additional polling for a tax measure that would help close a projected $76 million backlog in the city's 2014 Infrastructure Plan, a list of projects that includes a new public-safety building, two rebuilt fire stations, two new garages, a bike bridge over U.S. Highway 101 and various bike-improvement projects.

Consistent with the recommendation from its Finance Committee, the council agreed that the poll should focus specifically on the transient-occupancy tax (also known as a "hotel tax") and the real-estate transfer tax (which is paid during real estate transactions). The council is considering raising the hotel tax from 14 percent to 16 percent, making it the highest in California, according to staff (Anaheim is next with 15 percent). The real-estate tax would be raised by $1.10 for every $1,000 in property value.

The council also agreed to explore in the new poll the residents' willingness to support a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.

The council's general consensus about moving ahead with the poll belied members' widespread frustrations with the process. Council members Tom DuBois and Karen Holman each made the case that the menu of options presented by the Finance Committee is too meager. DuBois said the city should have been exploring a business tax, an idea that Palo Alto last considered in 2009 (voters rejected the proposed tax, which would have been imposed on gross receipts).

"It's the elephant in the room and we didn't ask any question on that, which seems crazy," DuBois said.

Councilwoman Lydia Kou, who was in China and who participated by phone, proposed scrapping the real-estate transfer tax from consideration and looking only at the hotel tax in the new poll. She also proposed creating a special council task force to consider the infrastructure challenges and taking a fresh look at the list of projects and seeing which should be scrapped or reprioritized.

"I think we need to be more transparent and really involve the community as well as ensure we explore all options, and not just take a handful," Kou said.

Tanaka, the council's most stringent fiscal conservative, vehemently opposed the measure and repeatedly accused staff of being wasteful with residents' money. Calling the infrastructure measure "totally inappropriate," Tanaka argued that the city needs to first prove to its residents that it has done everything it can to save money. He pointed to the council's tradition of donating used firetrucks to Oaxaca, Mexico, Palo Alto's sister city, and its proposal to transfer a portion of the city's water allocation to East Palo Alto (an action the council is expected to approve next week) as evidence of fiscal waste.

A proposed tax, he argued, is essentially an insult to residents.

"We're telling them, you have plenty of money, we'll soak you any time we want," Tanaka said. "We're not treating constituents with respect because we don't have our house in order; because we haven't prioritized our projects, we haven't tried to value engineer, we give away property and equipment."

While he voted against the motion, the rest of the council agreed to march ahead. The council directed the firm FM3 Research to move ahead with the next round of polls. The firm's initial polls found that the majority of residents would likely support a hotel tax and by a slimmer margin a real estate transfer tax. It had also found that voters would likely reject parcel taxes or sales-tax hikes. The poll provided the basis for Finance Committee's recommendation.

Councilman Greg Scharff, who chairs the Finance Committee, argued during committee meetings that the measure is a needed tool to complete the council's infrastructure program at a time of steep escalations in construction costs. Public Works staff have estimated that every month of delay to the public-safety building project adds about $350,000 to the cost.

Scharff called the proposed increases to the hotel- and real-estate transfer tax rates "realistic approaches to how we fund our infrastructure."

"The biggest threat is delay," Scharff said. "The costs of these things mount as we delay."

Comments

Bill Ross
College Terrace
on May 1, 2018 at 11:11 am
Bill Ross, College Terrace
on May 1, 2018 at 11:11 am

Strangely no comment about the Business Roundtable Initiative measure (for which the City has received a League of California Cities advisory) which apparently will qualify for the November Ballot. The effect of the Initiative would be to require two-thirds voter approval for all local taxes. It would be effective the day after the election and would be retroactive to January 1, 2018. Stated plainly any tax proposed by the City Council should require two-thirds voter approval or it won't be approved. Why is it that a member of the public has to bring this matter to the Council's attention? Where is the Staff?


Cedric de La Beaujardiere
Registered user
Barron Park
on May 1, 2018 at 11:32 am
Cedric de La Beaujardiere, Barron Park
Registered user
on May 1, 2018 at 11:32 am

It seems to me that if there's to be a new law that adding taxes requires a 2/3 vote, then it's only symmetrical and fair that it should also require 2/3 vote to end a tax. Otherwise it's easy to eliminate income sources and hard to generate them.


James
Midtown
on May 1, 2018 at 12:22 pm
James, Midtown
on May 1, 2018 at 12:22 pm

Let's have a new design contest for the bike bridge, one that will make a very creative statement about Palo Alto...that should delay it for several more years. How is that anaerobic digestion going in our Baylands...the one that promised to take care of our sewage sludge, but that is now abandoned (we will ship it out, after spending $million to build a loading ramp for it...what a fiasco!)? Let's fix up a dilapidated trailer park with hidden embedded taxes (BMR). Of course we can afford to give our water allocation to EPA...why not? Let's pay more $millions for useless train guards. Don't forget to separate your food scraps from your garbage can (gotta go zero waste)...and let's spend a lot on sustainability officials to come up with even more absurd things. Let's ignore the huge unfunded mandate for CalPers...who cares, it was the humane thing to do at the time. We are a rich city, and we can afford all these and many more boutique projects.

I will vote NO on any new taxes. Greg Tanaka is spot on.


Member
Barron Park
on May 1, 2018 at 1:17 pm
Member, Barron Park
on May 1, 2018 at 1:17 pm

It was very disappointing to see how dismissive councilman Greg Scharff was about the concerns raised by the members of the public about the wide opposition of new taxes. He along with other council members were laser-focused on rushing less than a handful of initiatives because they are "running out of time" to get things on the ballot for 2018, ignoring many other suggestions that could lead into a more thoughtful and sustainable process of raising revenue to address the deficit. The only real voice bringing fiscal responsibility to the table was councilman Tanaka, who raised very important points about lack of transparency and disregard for the opinions from the community. They seemed to be only focused to see what combination of words are more likely to be attractive to voters in a poll so new hotel and real estate taxes can be approved as soon as possible.


Sheri Furman
Registered user
Midtown
on May 1, 2018 at 1:39 pm
Sheri Furman, Midtown
Registered user
on May 1, 2018 at 1:39 pm

"DuBois said the city should have been exploring a business tax, an idea that Palo Alto last considered in 2009." Agree. A lot has changed in 9 years, including an explosion in business growth.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 1, 2018 at 2:11 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on May 1, 2018 at 2:11 pm

Good for Tanaka for calling for some fiscal responsibility. Good for Hollman for noting there was a huge decline -- 20% -- in the city's approval ratings and our confidence in the city to spend our money wisely.

It was painfully clear that the city officials / cc members hadn't done their homework when throwing their 4 choices for tax increases at the wall. Go watch the comments from residents, hotel and real estate reps at the end of the cc meeting last night.

One hotel rep said this was the first time in 30 yrs he was opposing a hotel tax hike since revenues are already flat and they're losing business to nearby cities. Another said she was shocked to learn about this proposal on the news since -- surprise -there'd been NO outreach that PA was proposing the highest hotel tax rate in the state and maybe the US.

A realty rep reminded them that with only 450 homes changing hands out of 26,000 properties a year there was no way the choice between raising the transfer tax and the parcel tax were at all equal in terns if revenue collections. She also politely told then it was absurd to expect those 450 already strapped buyers and sellers to bear the entire cost. DUH.

Shame on the city for a) not doing its homework and b) it's wasteful spending.

Just vote no. We can all list examples of wasteful govt. spending.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 1, 2018 at 2:12 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on May 1, 2018 at 2:12 pm

And I totally agree we need a business tax.


Annette
Registered user
College Terrace
on May 1, 2018 at 4:16 pm
Annette, College Terrace
Registered user
on May 1, 2018 at 4:16 pm

Kudos to Tanaka for his comments last night. He spoke with conviction and his frustration with the Council Majority was clear. Comments about Scharff's continued dismissiveness are accurate. I'd like to think it was a bad night for him, but that seems to be his way.

If memory serves, the business tax sputtered and died the last time it was floated b/c there were some serious flaws. I think non-profits were exempted and the tax was going to be revenue-based, something which is hugely problematic for many businesses. If the City keeps it simple (like basing it on headcount) there's a greater chance for success. Businesses have reason to be skeptical given that a simple thing like a business registry has proven to be a challenge.


Homeowner
College Terrace
on May 1, 2018 at 11:06 pm
Homeowner, College Terrace
on May 1, 2018 at 11:06 pm

Vote NO on any new taxes!


CrescentParkAnon.
Crescent Park
on May 2, 2018 at 12:30 am
CrescentParkAnon., Crescent Park
on May 2, 2018 at 12:30 am

Read my lips, no new taxes ... remove the special assessment real estate parcel school tax or make it progressive, based on the real estate taxes paid. Why do middle class people have to pay for rich people's children to go to local schools, they made enough to pay their share.

Why do regular Palo Altans have to pay the same amount as Mark Zuckerberg for example?

FIX THIS !


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 2, 2018 at 8:35 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on May 2, 2018 at 8:35 am

"The Palo Alto City Council agreed Tuesday to plod ahead toward a November tax measure, despite significant reservations from several members about the proposal on the table."

How about "significant reservations" from residents/taxpayers?? The polling firm found a 20% decline in our confidence in the city to spend our money and in our quality of life. Only one CC member bothered to point that out at the CC meeting. No one else including the city manager who'd now pushing this measure anyway seemed to care.


Me 2
Old Palo Alto
on May 2, 2018 at 9:09 am
Me 2, Old Palo Alto
on May 2, 2018 at 9:09 am

"remove the special assessment real estate parcel school tax or make it progressive"

Sure - once we remove Prop 13 and you start paying your fair share of property tax on your *Crescent Park* abode. Deal?

(Someone with a multi-million dollar asset doesn't qualify for "middle class")


I also
Midtown
on May 2, 2018 at 9:38 am
I also, Midtown
on May 2, 2018 at 9:38 am

I and Me2 are the only ones who seem willing to stand up and pay our fair share. I will vote YES on any new taxes, be they Federal, State, or local. We have a financial crisis in this country, spending more than we collect in taxes. Me2 and I recognize that we are taking a free ride on the backs of future generations. we need to start paying our bills so our children don’t have to.

Who will join Me2 and I and pledge to pay triple the tax we currently pay so we can break even for the services we receive. Me2 and I are tired of being a drain on future generations.


I also seems like a City Employee
Greenmeadow
on May 2, 2018 at 9:57 am
I also seems like a City Employee, Greenmeadow
on May 2, 2018 at 9:57 am

To: I also and Me2,
If you guys want to pay more in taxes please go ahead of make a donation to the City but leave the rest of us out of this. I don't think any resident, other than a city employee would be willing to pay triple the taxes. City Council just blew $2M on renovating a perfectly fine council chambers. Obviously if they can fund their Taj Mahal, they don't need more taxpayer dollars.


musical
Palo Verde
on May 2, 2018 at 11:37 am
musical, Palo Verde
on May 2, 2018 at 11:37 am

Triple tax? It takes 4 months of my gross earnings to cover my current annual taxes.
Do the math. That comment was obviously sarcasm.


Timothy Gray
Charleston Meadows
on May 2, 2018 at 11:55 am
Timothy Gray, Charleston Meadows
on May 2, 2018 at 11:55 am

When will we ever list the services that the City provides and the corresponding costs. Then prioritize those services. I am willing to live without the the bottom 10 percent of items.

Any competent Chief Financial Officer will tell you that you can't ONLY rely on the top line (Revenue). Sometimes you have to restructure core operations and prove the efficiency of operations before investors will support expansion initiatives.

It seems that every penny of recent revenue increases have went into increasing the size of the City's spending, and very little gets set aside during these prosperous times. History shows that leaner times will surely come -- and all the zoning exceptions that we give away will result in growth that will call for new sewage and water capacity, but no one is collecting money or setting aside reserves for this absolute eventuality. Where is the stewardship of the public trust?

Just because the Pension cost doesn't have to be funded this year, doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. Just because our sewage plant still works, doesn't mean that it will last forever. Similarly, when we have had extra funds, we committed it to the operating budget instead of reserving it for a new Public Safety building. Now we go after more taxes in the form of bond measures to make up for the failure to plan and exercise fiscal discipline in the past. We need to remove the political drama from the Council chambers and get on with responsible public service. How is it that we live in a town with such intellectual capabilities, but somehow we have constructed an impermeable barrier to keep at least a small portion of that wisdom from flowing into the council chambers?

I appreciate greatly the time and effort of each office holder, but while everyone congratulates everyone on doing a good job, history demonstrates that the job is simply not getting done.


Nayeli
Midtown
on May 2, 2018 at 1:38 pm
Nayeli, Midtown
on May 2, 2018 at 1:38 pm

"Crafting ballot language..."

This is code for coercing voters into supporting something that they wouldn't otherwise want to support.


musical
Palo Verde
on May 2, 2018 at 2:44 pm
musical, Palo Verde
on May 2, 2018 at 2:44 pm

Detailed capital and operating budgets are available at Web Link
FY2018 adopted budgets, and FY2019 proposed budgets.
Each document runs 600 to 700 pages and 10 to 15 megabytes.
Many summary tables are missing the units.
Usually dollars in thousands, sometimes in millions, other times in straight dollars.
Pretty much everything necessary to see where our money is going.
Finances are always a headache, but most of us appreciate our paychecks.
Each person's expenditures are another's income.
May seem like we spend too much time and effort keeping score.
@Timothy's bottom 10 percent of items are probably someone else's top 10 percent.


Gale Johnson
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on May 2, 2018 at 5:38 pm
Gale Johnson, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on May 2, 2018 at 5:38 pm

I'm starting to like Greg Tanaka. He's not a 'residentialist'...was elected into office with the pro growth gang, but boy, do I appreciate his fiscal financial conservative responsibility viewpoints. And he can get really feisty and fired up, calling his colleagues out. Thanks Greg, for standing alone!

I grew up as a son of 'The Great Depression' parents, and fiscal conservatism was drilled into my head. They were 'cash and carry' folks. That is such an unfamiliar and foreign term today, so most people don't understand it, and I won't even bother explaining it.

The other Greg (Scharff)...well, we should all know how he behaves on council by now. It's just Greg being Greg. It isn't always what he says but the way he says it. He's probably right on the transfer tax, but he was so dismissive on the TOT issue...like the extra tax wouldn't make a difference to hotel occupants. Really? Are our hotel beds in PA more comfortable than ones in Mt. View hotels? Is there a prestige thing involved, comparing PA to Mt. View as communities? Companies have travel budgets, and when times get tough they pull in the reins on those. I wouldn't place my bet on what Greg is thinking.

The company I worked for pulled in the reins. Air travel was changed/restricted...from direct flights to cheaper one or two stop flights. Not fun, but necessary.

I think Tom and Karen brought up very good points on other items that should be considered as revenues sources...business and 'ghost' house taxes, e.g.

Let's not just go for the low hanging fruit...OMG...a 'soda tax', but look at
ones that will really bear fruit...pun intended. I commented several times on the original link on the soda tax. I guarantee, anyone on CC who votes for it is not really thinking about the health issue, but of it as a revenue source. My extreme argument: What if everyone stopped buying soda to improve their health? That would dry up that teensy weensy revenue source! So, now what will CC want to tax next?

I honestly believe there might be a way of crafting a tax that won't roll Prop 13 all the way back, but partially back, so some of us long time residents, and prime benefactors, would pay more than we do now, and be willing to do it. How many of us own our homes debt free...no mortgage? The city knows that. They know everything about us. Without revealing what we pay in property taxes now, just ask us how much more we would be willing to pay to help solve our infrastructure problems. I'm in for $1,500 a year.

That could help out...maybe. But until our voting residents see some improvement on how CC spends our money, I think most of those ideas will fail at the ballot box.

A parcel tax, not just one number for every property owner, but a graduated tax based on the median price of homes in PA as a basis. House/home values would be the determining factor. So, some would pay more based on their home's appraisal. Greg (Scharff) and Liz, are you okay with this idea? Yes, you'd pay more than I would for my little bungalow in SPA. Is that okay with you?



Samuel L.
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 2, 2018 at 6:05 pm
Samuel L., Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on May 2, 2018 at 6:05 pm

Paying 3X your current taxes? I doubt you are willing to do that. At a salary of $100K (middle class), your total tax (Fed and State) is approx. $30K. Go ahead and triple that to leave you with a cool $10K to live on for the year.

Why should anyone, no matter where their house is or how much it is currently worth, have to pay so that the government can blindly spend it?

We are not a drain on future generations, just as our parents/grandparents were not a drain on us.


Me 2
Old Palo Alto
on May 2, 2018 at 10:21 pm
Me 2, Old Palo Alto
on May 2, 2018 at 10:21 pm

Just to be clear - I am not advocating for more taxes. I just find it irritating when someone living in a multimillion dollar house is pleading middle class and complaining about a parcel tax when Prop 13 has her/his more recently-moved-in neighbors already subsidizing his/her property tax bill. Give me a break.

(you can tell that this person is a long-time resident - the complaint about paying for public schools is telling)

Nice thoughts Gale. Thought you'd never hear that from me, did you?


CrescentParkAnon.
Crescent Park
on May 3, 2018 at 11:02 am
CrescentParkAnon., Crescent Park
on May 3, 2018 at 11:02 am

Me 2, I think you are perfectly clear, at least to anyone who reads between your lines.

You're advocating Mark Zuckerberg, mentioned as a symbol for the many people in Palo Alto and beyond with unlimited resources who come here and buy property as a speculative investment should pay the same school tax amount as everyone else regardless of value.

Instead of just saying that you replied with dishonest arguments and personal attacks.

Is that what you think is fair? Do you personally think it is right that Mark Zuckerberg pay the same for local schools as every other homeowner, y/n?

How about for our country, should we limit government revenue to whatever amount every person can afford so that a working family making median wage in the US should pay say 1/3, or $20,000 the same as everyone else, including millionaires and billionaires? Although for Donald Trump maybe $20,000 would already be a tax hike? y/n?

In order to cloud this important issue of a tax system that is getting more and more regressive, and of the objective and obvious unfairness of the current parcel tax issue, you retreated from that issue and engaged in what-aboutist talk aimed at Prop. 13.

Not only that, you also assume things and make accusations and subjective attacks on anyone who you "feel" benefits from Prop. 13 , an attempt to pander to others who might have questions about Prop. 13, an entirely different issue.

Does this resentful attitude of yours mean that you bought your house recently? I am asking, not assuming anything about you or insulting you or anyone else, I am trying to get you to think fairly, objectively and honestly about an important issue, and to stop being flippant and insulting - to stick to the point.

If you did buy your house recently, then,

1) Presumably, the finances were a rational affordable decision at the time and into the foreseeable future. So why do you sound so angry or jealous and why project that everyone but you is benefitting from Prop. 13?

2) In short order you will be changing your mind on Prop. 13 and be glad for it.

There is also a better cure for Prop. 13 and that is to differentiate between commercial properties and residential. Commercial properties do business and make profits in present time, but residential properties have the life cycle of people and families and turn over fast enough as we can all see from the for sale signs all over Palo Alto.



musical
Palo Verde
on May 3, 2018 at 11:41 am
musical, Palo Verde
on May 3, 2018 at 11:41 am

^ Unfair that we all pay the same amount for a quart of milk or loaf of bread.


Me 2
Old Palo Alto
on May 3, 2018 at 1:48 pm
Me 2, Old Palo Alto
on May 3, 2018 at 1:48 pm

To modify a common phrase - "fair is in the eye of the beholder."

Who made your definition of "fair" the one we should use? Especially when it's a definition of fair that would benefit you economically. Seems like there would be some bias to that. (NO, REALLY?!)

Let us look at facts. The top 10 percent of wage earners pay 70+% of federal taxes.

Regressive?

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.


Donation of water rights
Crescent Park
on May 3, 2018 at 11:53 pm
Donation of water rights, Crescent Park
on May 3, 2018 at 11:53 pm

I looked into the water rights. It looks like we are donating $2.5M worth of water rights yet raising the real estate tax by $2M. What is going on?


Resident
Midtown
on May 4, 2018 at 6:29 am
Resident, Midtown
on May 4, 2018 at 6:29 am

I like Gale's explanation of the soda tax. In fact, government should never make a profit from people's vices. This is why nanny state taxes are fundamentally corrupt and dishonest and shouldn't even be on the table, the fact that it is makes me utterly disillusioned with all forms of modern big government and convinced that basically all tax hikes and growth of government will perpetuate the corruption and grow the Palo Alto Swamp.


Taxer
Barron Park
on May 4, 2018 at 10:57 am
Taxer, Barron Park
on May 4, 2018 at 10:57 am

I think I could get the citizens to vote for any tax by:
1. identifying something that will benefit the majority of registered voters
2. Raising the tax solely through a property tax increase (only property owners would pay the tax).
3. Initiate a campaign vilifying property owners as being too wealthy and making the voters believe they are being cheated out of the (new) bnefits the tax will fund.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 4, 2018 at 12:02 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on May 4, 2018 at 12:02 pm

"Stated plainly any tax proposed by the City Council should require two-thirds voter approval or it won't be approved. Why is it that a member of the public has to bring this matter to the Council's attention? Where is the Staff?"

Thank you, Bill Ross, for asking the right question in the first post in this topic. What DOES our highly paid staff do? Certainly not its homework which is why we're seeing a 20% decline in public confidence in our city's management and their willingness to throw OUR money away.


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2018 at 1:26 pm
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2018 at 1:26 pm

I plan to vote "no" until the next business downturn. The last thing we need is to spend more money when construction costs are at their highest in the midst of a boom.


Taxer
Barron Park
on May 4, 2018 at 2:44 pm
Taxer, Barron Park
on May 4, 2018 at 2:44 pm

The opposition to Prop 13 is misguided. Here's why;

Basically, there are a set of government services that our democratically elected leaders have decided are best funded thru a property tax and special assessments levied on real property (like the Bond payments, school assessments, fire, and other individual charges we see on our property tax bills). The appreciation of the assessment based tax is capped at 2% (per prop 13) - though the additional line item special assessments are not subject to that cap. As a result, I have seen my property taxes go up between 2% and 6% per year.

Here is the rub.
I am a single guy living in a $3.8M house. I work out of my home and don't drive more than a few times a week. Never called or used the police, never called the FD or used them, no kids in schools, etc. So I barely use any of the services that my property taxes and certainly the school bonds, supposedly pay for.

Meanwhile.... The family down the road lives in a smaller house that Zillow says is worth $1.9M . They have four cars (all parked on the road because the garage is full). They have six (yes 6!) kids in the schools. I've seen the FD there twice and the Police at least once due to a break-in (I heard).

So, why should I (a single guy) pay more in taxes than that family of eight that is clearly using and benefiting from services that I don't use, just because my house has a higher valuation (on paper, BTW) ? . Why is the value of the home the basis of what we pay in taxes for these services instead of just using the rate of usage of those services by a household to determine how much a household should pay ?.

Also, why should my taxes automatically go up between 2 and 6% every year ?
This exceeds the rate of inflation - even with Prop 13 in place.

To fix this...
I think property taxes should only be a one time fee paid at time of the purchase.
Then, I think there should be a new City tax based upon family size, age distribution, vehicle count, and history of Police, Fire, and city service usage, to replace the property tax. That way, the consumers of the services consumed are the ones paying the taxes to support them.

Prop 13 is just a red herring used to vilify Property owners.

The real villain in this system, is the property tax itself and the lack of fairness to the individual property owner.


Residentay ta
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2018 at 10:16 pm
Residentay ta, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2018 at 10:16 pm

Taxer makes valid points, except that life doesn't work like that.

Taxer says he is a single guy living in a house but we have no idea why or how he can afford to do this. Presumably he could theoretically be letting out a room or two to other single guys depending on the size of the house. He could also at any time fall in love and get married, possibly to someone with a couple of school age kids. Since he says he works from home he presumably has work stuff in the house, computers and the like, which could be classed as targets for thieves. He compares himself to a family with 6 children, but at any time in the future he could be in that position himself. He complains about their cars being parked on the street, but doesn't mention where he parks his car or where his possible house mates park theirs, or even if he has someone sleeping in his garage.
At any time, his house could catch fire, his house broken into, a tree could fall on his awhile he is asleep, or some other danger lurk and and hit him. He talks about his neighbor calling police for a breakin, but that could be him at any time. He could need any one of those services he may be paying for in his property tax at any time and they would be available for him.

In the meantime, what he does in his house is his business. Some might say that a single guy living in a house that could provide a home for a family that can't afford to live in Palo Alto, a teacher or police officer for example. Some might say that he is running a business from his home and employs daytime workers which add to traffic and parking problems in the neighborhood, or running a hacker house. In other words, what he does in his own house is his business, but the potential of using city services is there if he needs and wants them.

Taxing children for their existence doesn't sound fair to me. A poll tax on life doesn't sound fair to me. A family who may need police more than others should not necessarily be taxed more than others, after all the need for police may be due to anything from a break in to an elderly guest with dementia wandering off by mistake, to being the victim of cyber criminals or a hate crime, to having a dispute with his noisy neighbors who might dislike something he does which they consider unneighborly.

I am not saying he doesn't raise valid points, but at the same time, life does not work like that tical and to some extent is the easiest method of garnering officially correct information. After all, how can any of us provide proof of how much we use city services and how much would checking into the accuracy of such usage cost? Self reporting? And how easily could that be falsified?


Green Acres
Green Acres
on May 5, 2018 at 11:54 am
Green Acres, Green Acres
on May 5, 2018 at 11:54 am

Taxing children for their existence doesn't sound fair to me. A poll tax on life doesn't sound fair to me. “

Taxing a home for its existence doesn't sound fair to me. A poll tax on paper property value and assumptions about ones wealth because of the house they live in doesn't sound fair to me.


Rex
Downtown North
on May 5, 2018 at 5:01 pm
Rex, Downtown North
on May 5, 2018 at 5:01 pm

No, No, and No. This city govt has little to no fiscal aptitude, and I would not trust them to do anything properly with even more money.


resident
Adobe-Meadow
on May 6, 2018 at 8:36 am
resident, Adobe-Meadow
on May 6, 2018 at 8:36 am

Articles in papers today on recaps of the tax resolution and the motivation behind it all. Thank you to Greg Tanaka for correctly identifying the problems we are facing. Infrastructure prioritization - strange that topic comes up - lack of prioritization and assumed cost, meanwhile no mention in the larger papers concerning the huge expenditure on the Ross Road and other disfigurements in process which has a huge price tag. Mention of the salary of city manager and senior staff as relates to the percentage of growth in the city financial system - big disparity all to the staff's benefit. Time to pull this all together and force some resolution to what the city is working to. How about that bike bridge we all approved years ago.


A Resident
Crescent Park
on May 6, 2018 at 9:47 am
A Resident, Crescent Park
on May 6, 2018 at 9:47 am

I have given up thinking that this town is headed anywhere but bankruptcy.

These are the best of times for the economy and property tax receipts - yet PACC still cannot pay the bills and needs to raise taxes AGAIN. When the economy downturns (which it always does) and the housing bubble bursts (which it will) - just watch the PA budget red ink go hyperbolic!

Resident has it right. we need a comprehensive look at where the money is currently going and what our current and unfunded long term obligations are. We need a "pay for performance system" in government instead of guaranteed raises and the incestuous School board negotiating contracts for spouses and for which the mangers who negotiate on one side get that same raise - and the incestuous CC politicians/Managers voting raises for their own buddies in City Management. The system is rotten. Palo Alto is rotten.


Abitarian
Downtown North
on May 6, 2018 at 10:14 am
Abitarian, Downtown North
on May 6, 2018 at 10:14 am

At the same time city leaders scheme to increase taxes on residents, they plan to give away 500,000 gallons of water per day to East Palo Alto, for free. Of course, we have recently received notice that the city proposes raising our water rates, too.

See Web Link and write to [email protected]


Rick
Adobe-Meadow
on May 7, 2018 at 9:29 pm
Rick, Adobe-Meadow
on May 7, 2018 at 9:29 pm

Perhaps I'll become an activist yet. Often I voted in favor of tax increases because I liked public services and could afford it. Now I'm retired and paying attention. I first looked at the Ross road "bikeway" and the traffic horror it is and will be and noted that it was EIGHT MILLION DOLLARS+ and yet, a true Palo Alto gem, the Lucy Stern Community Center was rotting away for lack of City support. Huh.

And that bike bridge? We don't need it. We waiting so long for an iconic bridge that East Palo Alto is building one for us. Has anyone suggested to them that they charge tolls?


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