23 Aug 2014
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Letter: Vice Mayor's Thoughts on Measure Y

Vice Mayor Margaret Fujioka offers some last-minute thoughts on the renewal of Piedmont's parcel tax.

Letter: Vice Mayor's Thoughts on Measure Y


With election day upon us, I'd like to leave you with a few thoughts to consider regarding Measure Y:  

The Municipal Tax Review Committee (MTRC) and the Budget Advisory Committee (BAC) recommended renewal of the parcel tax. The 2011 MTRC report stated, "Parcel tax revenue has become an essential component of the City's fiscal picture.  Therefore, it will be essential to renew the parcel tax at its current level before it expires on June 30, 2013."  The BAC unanimously stated in 2012:  "...If the parcel tax renewal measure on the November 2012 ballot fails to achieve a 2/3 majority, the Council will...face the unpleasant prospect of having to make unprecedented cuts in programs..."  One of the leading parcel tax opponents served on the BAC yet now disagrees with the very recommendation he adopted in the BAC report to "send a message" to the City Council about moving faster on controlling employee costs.  

While I concur with the BAC report's recommendation that employees will have to contribute more to their pensions and benefits, such employee contract terms do not occur overnight which appears to be an assumption underlying the "No on Y" campaign. Rather, the City will enter into good faith negotiations with the employee unions and such negotiations, as is true for any public entity, may take time to reach a mutually acceptable conclusion.  In the case of the Firefighters' Union, it took over a year to reach agreement on the 2011-12 contract because the City's demand for concessions were initially rejected. Until labor negotiations are completed, cuts will need to be made to balance the budget by end of fiscal year or June 30, 2013, if Measure Y fails.   

Let's remember, the parcel tax generates $1.63 million per year. If it is not renewed, $1.63 million will be cut this year and every year thereafter. It is not a question of if these cuts will happen, but rather where they will come from. This a matter of arithmetic and logic. The City cannot sustain the loss of $1.63 million per year and over $6.5 million over 4 years without cuts.

Unlike many other cities, Piedmont has not had to face the prospect of, for example, eliminating its library services, reducing maintenance of public areas, and not funding its equipment and facilities replacement funds, which the BAC strongly recommended be funded. As chair of the BAC and member of the MTRC, Bill Hosler, stated, "Our general fund reserve — our meager savings account — is about twice the annual amount of revenue from Measure Y. Every year without the revenue from Measure Y is the equivalent of burning through half our savings." Renewing the parcel tax is fiscally prudent. Vote "yes" on Measure Y.   

Margaret Fujioka
Vice Mayor 

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