May 2 2011

What is Piedmont’s New Municipal Tax Review Committee Up To?

From Michael Rancer, Chair of the 2011 Municipal Tax Review Committee:

In March, the Piedmont City Council appointed a Municipal Tax Review Committee, charged with responsibility for recommending the next parcel tax when the current one expires on June 30, 2013.  The city relies on the parcel tax to support basic municipal services.  Although other cities are able to generate substantial revenue from sources such as sales tax, Piedmont’s lack of a significant commercial base means that most resources derive from levies on residential properties.

A proposed municipal parcel tax is presented to city voters every four years and must be approved by a two-thirds vote before it can go into effect.  The current Tax Review Committee began work on March 16, with the aim of making a recommendation to the Council by the end of August.  After considering the Committee’s proposal, the Council will place a measure on the ballot for the February 2012 primary election.  If approved, it will take effect with the 2013-14 fiscal year.

The Committee is also charged with the responsibility of reviewing the city’s sewer tax in the light of recent EPA mandates governing municipal sewerage discharge in the East Bay.

The Committee has nine members:

  • David Brown, Managing Director of Bridgeway Capital Advisors
  • Ryan Gilbert, CEO of Bill Float, Inc.
  • Tamra Hege, former member of the Piedmont School Board and of the city Planning Commission
  • Steven Hollis, investment banker
  • Bill Hosler, with Catellus Development Corporation and formerly Chief Financial Officer there
  • Eric Lindquist, financial consultant
  • Robert McBain, investment consultant and former Managing Director at Bank of America
  • Stephen Weiner, former Provost at Mills College
  • Michael Rancer, Chair of the Municipal Tax Review Committee and former Budget Director, University of California Office of the President

The Committee meets every other week on Wednesday nights and receives staff support from Mark Bichsel, city Finance Director.  Council members John Chiang and Jeff Wieler are Council liaisons to the Committee.

The Committee has subdivided its work into four subject areas:

  • Review and forecast of city revenues
  • Review and analysis of operating expenditures, including comparisons to other similar cities (based on population and local economics) and the potential impact of possible new spending obligations
  • Analysis of the city’s multi-year capital needs
  • Examination of the costs associated with new EPA sewerage mandates.

The Committee has already begun gathering data to support its work in these four categories.  Eventually the findings from these analyses will be assembled into a formal recommendation to the Council.

At its next meeting the Committee will receive a full briefing on the city staff’s recommended 2011-12 budget, shortly after the document is submitted to the Council.

Upcoming future meetings of the Committee will take place at 7:30 pm on May 11 and May 25.  The City releases official meeting notices for the Committee, noting time, place and agenda items.  Members of the public are invited to attend the meetings.  The Committee reserves a brief period at the beginning of each meeting for public comment.

Chair Michael Rancer will submit updates (such as this one) on the Committee’s progress after each meeting.  However, no tax recommendations will be on the Committee’s agenda until near the end of the process, after all the data has been reviewed and discussed in public sessions.

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