County voters may face tax question | August 3, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - August 3, 2012

County voters may face tax question

Supervisors vote to place one-eighth-of-a-cent sales-tax boost on ballot

Voters in Santa Clara County may be asked to approve a one-eighth-of-a-cent boost in the sales tax this November.

Currently, retail transactions in the county are subject to a tax of 8.375 percent.

The Board of Supervisors, which voted 4-1 June 26 to place the tax increase on the Nov. 6 ballot, approved revised ballot language to the tax measure Wednesday, Aug. 1. Final approval is expected at the board's Aug. 7 meeting.

Supervisor Mike Wasserman of Los Gatos cast the dissenting vote.

In support were supervisors Liz Kniss of Palo Alto, Dave Cortese of San Jose, George Shirakawa of San Jose and Ken Yeager of San Jose.

After 10 consecutive years of substantial budget gaps, "the county, in effect, exhausted its strategies to avoid steep reductions to direct services, and we may no longer enjoy robust growth in property tax revenues that have sustained county programs over the past 30 years," a staff report said.

The county executive's 2013 budget message depicts "significant threats on the expense side of the budget, including paying down unfunded liability for retiree health, increased CalPERS (employee pension) costs and concessions yet to be negotiated with open bargaining units," the report said.

County retiree health costs have been funded at 50 percent of the normal cost in recent years, according to the report. For fiscal year 2013, the county funded 100 percent of normal cost ($72.2 million), but only 75 percent of it with ongoing funds. The plan for future years is to fund 100 percent of the normal cost with ongoing resources so the unfunded liability of $1.6 billion does not grow larger, the report said.

The county still must negotiate $15 million in concessions with bargaining units in order to achieve the $75 million in total salary and benefit savings built into the 2013 budget, the report said.

Arguing in support of the ballot measure June 26 were representatives of United Way of Silicon Valley, the Valley Medical Center Foundation and the Santa Clara County Democratic Party.

One-fifth of families in the county earn less than a "self-sufficiency" income of $54,000 for a family of four, said Wendy Ho of United Way.

"There's a huge need for county services in this economic downturn," Ho said. "People are relying on the county safety net more and more."

The San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce opposed the ballot measure.

"The business community believes that it is critical that the county address the fiscal issue of long term, sustainable pension and benefit reform before seeking any increased tax revenues from the businesses and residents of Santa Clara County," Chamber President and CEO Matthew R. Mahood stated in a letter to the chairman of the supervisors.

—Chris Kenrick


Posted by Steve Ly, a resident of Los Altos
on Aug 2, 2012 at 11:25 am

I'm voting "NO." Our combined tax burden is too high and politicians continue to push wasteful projects like high-speed rail.

I'll vote against all tax increase proposals until government learns to live within its means.

Posted by Resident , a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 2, 2012 at 11:35 am

NO! Very bad for local businesses. I'll shop elsewhere!

Posted by Nope, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 2, 2012 at 11:38 am

Across the board salary cuts for all county employees would save more and is long overdue

Posted by Unanswered questions, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 2, 2012 at 11:41 am

How much would the tax increase be expected to raise annually?

How long will the tax be in effect according to the proposed ballot measure?

Will it be used to balance the budget, or is it intended unofficially for particular purposes? What would be cut if the tax increase ballot measure fails to pass?

Posted by Andrea, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 2, 2012 at 12:14 pm

Absolutely not. Get the union bureaucrats off the goldplated pension plans first, before you consider asking me to put more money in the trough.

Also don't vote for Liz in the coming city Council election. She's a career bureaucrat who knows nothing about running a city efficiently. We need new blood who will stand up to public-sector waste.

Posted by Neal, a resident of Community Center
on Aug 2, 2012 at 12:58 pm

A staff report said ..."we may no longer enjoy robust growth in property tax revenues that have sustained county programs over the last 30 years." This report should put to rest the tired argument that Prop 13 is the source of our budget problems. It's a spending problem. No new taxes.

Posted by neighbor, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 2, 2012 at 1:47 pm

Vote No -- this is an outrageous proposal.
I guess instead of doing their jobs, being productive on behalf of the country, they (supervisors/their staff)sit around figuring out how to get more money out of us taxpayers. I am unimpressed with this county. There is nothing more important than good management and strong accountability, and constantly working angles to get more out of us in whatever fashion (fees, etc.) is not the way to go.

Posted by registered user, Tyler Hanley, a resident of digital editor of Palo Alto Online
on Aug 2, 2012 at 3:00 pm

The following comments were moved from a duplicate thread:

Posted by Taxpayer, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, 4 hours ago:

No no no no no.

Not while we're still paying a bloated bureaucracy ungodly retirement and benefit packages.

Fix the waste and the excessive spending before having the gall to ask the taxpayers to put more in the trough.

And with regard to Liz Kniss the career politician's Palo Alto city council bid: ABSOLUTELY NOT. Palo Alto can't afford this bureaucrat.


Posted by Anon., a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, 3 hours ago:

Progressively up the rates and the number of tax margins at the high end to increase revenue, quit dumping the tax liabilities on the people who did not cause the problem and in any case cannot afford to pay more taxes.

Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 2, 2012 at 3:06 pm

I guess sales tax does not apply to gasoline.

Posted by Stan Hutchings, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 2, 2012 at 3:37 pm

The government is taxing me to poverty!
Retired, only Social Security and Pension, plus 401k retirement savings and I pay 11% Federal, 6% State, 7% property tax,
and already 8.375% sales tax, adds up to about one-third of my money is gone before I even get a chance to start spending it! How can they possibly expect I'll vote for more? Including the State tax increase proposed by Jerry "HSR" Brown.

Posted by bill g , a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 2, 2012 at 5:24 pm

When will those who propose taxes add a sunset clause? I will vote no any new tax increase until there is a date in the measure guaranteeing an end to the increase.

Posted by Sigh..., a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 2, 2012 at 5:28 pm

"Retired, only Social Security and Pension, plus 401k retirement savings and I pay 11% Federal, 6% State, 7% property tax,

and already 8.375% sales tax, adds up to about one-third of my money is gone before I even get a chance to start spending it! "

No, it doesn't. You can't add up the percentages like that. Federal and state taxes apply to your income. Property tax applies to the assessed value of your property. And sales tax applies to most, but not all, of your purchases.

Posted by John, a resident of another community
on Aug 2, 2012 at 8:24 pm

Oh okay it does add up. But how about looking at it from tax freedom day which was April 20th of this year.

The bureaucrats are taxing us because they can. We keep voting for the same old same old. Now Joe Simitian will recycle through as supervisor,

Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 2, 2012 at 11:21 pm

Here's the county budget expenditures:

FY 2011: $3,977,648,957

FY 2012: $4,004,544,280 (increase of $27 million)

FY 2013 proposed: $4,147,488,473 (increase of $143 million)

Notice the wording in the article "10 years of substantial budget GAPS" - in other words, the county has budget has been growing, but our county supervisors (LIZ KNISS) has been wanting to spend more than the budget has been growing.

Do we need this same sort of fiscal management in Palo Alto, with LIZ KNISS running for city council? She'll want to spend more than the budget is growing if history is any indication.

Posted by Really?, a resident of Community Center
on Aug 3, 2012 at 9:30 pm

Ummm- more taxes? There was no mention of new services for our taxes.

So I can assume this is just another case of our elected officials imagining we will be accountable for their problems.

Really? Really?

I don't think so.

Posted by Sylvia, a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 6, 2012 at 7:19 pm

Cut these fat, out of control city employee pensions and then you can raise my taxes!

Posted by Tax This, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Aug 7, 2012 at 3:51 pm

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors ignorantly sell a tax hike by saying they have no specific reason for the tax hike, they just want more money! What great visionaries! While the Supervisors spend our limited tax money on projects such as the gift to the 49ers stadium to install tv screens in the back of stadium seats, Liz Kniss's continued attempts to fund a pedestrian bridge over 101 in Palo Alto 1/4 mile away from an existing pedestrian bridge, charging residents of Santa Clara County $80 a year to use their library, etc.,etc. they in turn ask taxpayers to continue the Board's misuse of funds. Their problem is not a revenue problem, it's a spending problem. Their continuance of ignorantly spending taxpayer funds and running deficit budgets are a ticking time bomb and their fiscal ignorance is unsustainable causing ballooning and skyrocketing deficits. Taxpayers can no longer continue to bailout The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors fiscal stupidity.

Posted by Bill Hough, a resident of another community
on Aug 9, 2012 at 8:44 am

Imagine my shock to read on your website that the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors want to jack up out sales tax yet again. These days, every ballot contains a tax increase proposal. Didn’t we just approve a BART tax and a vehicle registration fee? When will it end?

For all practical purposes, we’re still in a recession. Despite this, governments at all levels refuse to cut spending as evidenced by Governor Brown’s determination to issue high speed rail bonds that we can’t afford to pay back. Despite this, the governor wants voters to agree to raise state taxes in November. Now the county is piling on in the effort to increase our already excessive taxes.

In this miserable economic climate, it is offensive for the County to propose piling on the tax burden. Vote “NO” an all tax increases this November. I will campaign and vote against it and encourage others to do likewise.