Dec 11 2023

OPINION: More Taxes Proposed for Piedmont Homeowners

Dear City Council Members,

I recently became aware that the City Council is preparing to ask Piedmont’s voters to approve a Municipal Services Special Tax in March 2024.  I am troubled by two aspects of this proposal.  
1.  It appears that the Council wishes to characterize this as a “renewal” of the tax, when in fact it is a “renewal and increase” (a substantial one, at that – 20%).  The Council needs to be honest about the increase. 
2.  While usually these taxes have been for 4-year periods, and four years is the duration recommended by the Budget Advisory and Financial Planning Committee, the Council proposes a TWELVE-year term. This effectively removes the Council’s accountability to the voters.  I urge the Council to approve a 4-year term, not the proposed 12-year term.

The last time I checked, the tax burden in Piedmont was among the highest in the Bay Area. We have a host of taxes, including paying for the new pool, and we can anticipate that another special tax will be needed for public safety improvements.  Particularly in this environment, the Council needs to remain accountable to the voters.  Ask for a municipal services special tax, but be clear about the increase and hold the term to four years.  If you don’t make these course corrections, you will risk voters rejecting the special tax, as happened in the past with the overreaching sewer tax.

Kathleen Quenneville, Piedmont Resident
Editors’ Note:  Opinions expressed are those of the author.

8 Responses to “OPINION: More Taxes Proposed for Piedmont Homeowners”

  1. Just more of the same in Piedmont. We’ve been watching it for more than a quarter of a century. This city has THE HIGHEST parcel taxes of any city in the state, and yet it’s never enough for one Council after another. And then taxpayers end up having to bailout badly managed projects, sweetheart contracts and gilded public works undertakings. Enough is enough.

  2. AGAIN WITH MORE TAX!!!! Some of us living on fixed incomes will eventually be forced out of Piedmont with the never ending climb in property taxes. Enough is too much!

  3. I’m also usually pretty critical of tax increases, but I’m less so for this one. First, I’d disagree with MS Quenneville’s comment that the fact that this tax is an increase isn’t revealed. The first line of the ballot measure says “to increase funding for essential services”. However, it doesn’t look to be that much of an increase because the last parcel tax also had a CPI adjustment factor included. The recent run-up in inflation should bring the existing tax, by the time it expires in 2025, pretty close to the new rate. I hope the city does a better job of pointing this out.
    But, let’s be honest. Piedmont is located in the midst of an urban area with serious crime problems. We see it on the news every day. If the tax is not renewed, we will be facing cuts in public safety personnel. I doubt if many care to see that happen.

  4. i have been a resident & taxpayer for 45 years.

    this is the same mentality, methodology, & fiscal irresponsibility that has existed for 45 years that i can certify–probably longer.

    wake up & stop electing immature, nontransparent, decision-makers!

    these people do not have your welfare in mind. get them out of here

  5. Piedmont City Council

    re: Nov 6, 2023 Item VII Parcel Tax

    Dear Mayor Cavenaugh and City Council,

    Staff report: “The Municipal Services Special Tax is assessed on the basis that parcels of higher intensity use or parcels of greater size produce higher demands for service.”

    Density of use and higher demand for services is tied to the size of a residence rather than the size of the parcel. A larger home is equivalent to a larger household with more cars and more family members using a variety of City services and a larger requirement for Police and other City services over a smaller home. If a fire, a larger building will potentially require more Fire services.

    The School District understood this as the recent School District supplemental tax is based on square foot of dwelling size. If legally permitted, I suggest Council consider basing the tax on the more relevant dwelling size so that the tax burden is progressively shared by larger homes.

    Additionally with inflation most severely hurting seniors on limited fixed incomes, the ever increasing Piedmont Parcel Tax may force some long-time resident seniors to leave the town they love. With 20% over 65, essentially the remaining taxpayers would by 20% more. That seems excessive and I suspect that a Senior Exemption based on age 75 would be a much smaller percentage.


    Rick Schiller

  6. Interesting points Mike. What CPI are you using for your estimate?

    And let’s be very clear – the city WILL NOT face service cuts if the parcel tax does not pass on the March 2024 ballot. The current parcel tax does not expire until 2025 and if it does not pass in March 2024 the City will expeditiously put a revised tax on the November 2024 ballot. The city schedules parcel tax increases this way for the very reason to avoid service cuts. On top of that, the General Fund is flush and city revenues always exceeds expected by $0.5 -1M.

    Mike, what do you think about the proposed 12 year renewal? I don’t see the point. Can anyone provide historical perspective on the 4 year term? As I understand it, the parcel tax was adopted to back fill revenue lost by Prop 13 but subject to 4 year renewal presumably for taxpayer oversight – voters didn’t want to see money for essential services creep into other city programs. A 12 year renewal seems to undercut that oversight.

  7. In response to Garrett’s questions, I’d use the BLS, online CPI calculator, but it shouldn’t make too much difference. The question should be, what CPI source does the city use?
    You’re probably right that if the March measure doesn’t pass, they will try again in November.
    Re the 12-year duration, I can see why only having 4 years can frustrate long-term planning, especially towards the end of a term. But I’d also be supportive of say, 8 years.

  8. This “two bites at the apple” approach has been used by the city before to pass parcel taxes. Voters should not be at all worried about service cuts if the measure were not to pass in March. As for long-term planning, staff and the BAFPC should do a better job of revenue projection before proposing tax increases. Property/parcel tax revenue has come in >$2m over projections for over 5 years now. The city should run a simple regression model to estimate revenue – its a pretty standard long-range planning tool.

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