I received our property tax bill this week. Included is $471 for the Municipal Services Tax. In the big scheme, it’s not a lot of money. Oh, I know that the entire $6 million raised over the last several years with the current parcel tax was wasted on an undergrounding project and an aborted sports field project, and was misspent on excessive employee compensation, especially fringe benefits. But that’s water under the bridge. Institutions, including City Councils, make mistakes. As long as they learn from their mistakes, progress, albeit costly, has been made. But wait – What project management practices have been put in place so these mistakes are avoided in the future?
And wait - What about the $40 million unfunded liability for future employee benefit costs that I’ve been reading about? That’s not water under the bridge; it is a torrent of water rushing at and possibly devastating the bridge. Who’s going to pay for that? That’s $10,000 per household. What happens when that bill comes due?
The City Council says we’re making good progress. A two-tier pension system for newly hired employees that will not have a material effect for 10–20 years and will have no effect whatsoever on the $40 million unfunded liability for current retirees or the 94 current employees. Doesn’t appear to be much progress to me. The City Council notes employees are paying $100 per month towards their retiree health benefit. Let’s see: That’s $112,000 per annum applied against a taxpayer funded benefit package of $5.7 million. Not much progress there.
Employee contracts expire soon; for miscellaneous, non-safety employees in December 2012 and for fire and police in June 2013. Let’s see what progress can be made by our City Council in labor negotiations to rein in benefits costs funded by taxpayers.
If the City Council moves to lessen the burden on taxpayers for employee benefits and develops a plan for fiscal responsibility, the Municipal Services Tax can be put up to a vote in early 2014. This coincides with the next City Council election and provides an opportunity to vote on candidates and the tax at the same time.So, for now, I’ll vote no on Measure Y.
It is not “business as usual.” It is time to demand fiscal responsibility from our elected officials. Visit www.NoOnMeasureY.com.
Member, 2011 Municipal Tax Review Committee