Oct 20 2015

OPINION: Vote Every 4 Years Allows Council to Assess Public Support

On October 19, Council members voted to ask the Budget Advisory and Financial Planning Committee (BAFPC) to not only evaluate the needs for a Municipal Services Parcel Tax, but to consider the term of a tax. Terms discussed ranged from 4 years to a permanent tax.  Council members Rood, King, and McBain indicated their inclination to continue a 4 year term to the tax as an important way to involve the community in City decisions.  Vice Mayor Wieler indicated his preference for a longer term on the tax.  All acknowledged the term and amount of any proposed parcel tax was a decision for the Council, rather than the Committee.
Prior to the October 19th Council meeting, the following letter was sent to the Councilmembers to include in their consideration:
“I advise you not to direct the BAFPC to provide a recommendation on the duration of the Municipal Services Special Tax as part of its periodic examination of the tax. The tax has always been used to take the pulse of Piedmont on its level of support for municipal services through additional tax dollars and, as the table in the staff report shows, that support can be variable. A survey of the residents every 4 years in the form of a vote is perfectly acceptable and appropriate to both assess public support and provide sufficient long-term planning, given the high level of support for the tax.  A longer period between such endorsements could direct staff and future Council in directions not supported by residents. And with what appears to be the dissolution of the Municipal Tax Committee and the oversight that committee provided, voters may perceive a longer duration of the tax as a reduction in voter oversight.”
“If you do direct the BAFPC to provide a recommendation on this matter,  also direct the Committee to balance the need for that tax with the annual Real Property Transfer Tax receipts which are at historic levels.  It was the recommendation of the Municipal Tax Committee that transfer tax receipts over $3M be considered “one time” windfalls and not be incorporated into annual budgeting analysis for the City.  The reason is so that the City does not get ahead of itself with spending and benefits that it cannot sustain.  Indeed, one year when I was on City Council, we did not levy the parcel tax because the transfer tax receipts were $3M.  If the Committee is to consider lengthening the duration of the Municipal Parcel Tax, then also have it consider self-correcting measures to maintain City spending at sustainable levels.”
Garrett Keating, Former City Council Member
Editors’ Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.

2 Responses to “OPINION: Vote Every 4 Years Allows Council to Assess Public Support”

  1. Well said, Mr. Keating!

  2. I strongly agree with Garrett Keating’s opinion regarding the duration of each renewal of the Municipal Parcel Tax. The Council must be apprised of the community’s support for it on a regular interval.

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