I imagine you have now received your 2012-13 property tax statement. Have you looked at the 15, yes 15, fixed charges? Well, we collectively voted for these, one way or another.
Now, to many in Piedmont, these charges represent the cost of providing excellent services, a theme endlessly repeated but nevertheless true.
Then, consider all the tax increases proposed: At the Federal level, Medicare taxes have gone up as will income taxes inevitably. On the State level, there are two ballot initiatives, including raising the sales tax. On the County level, there is a proposed zoo tax, which will raise the total sales tax to over 10%. Now, sales taxes are regressive, if not punitive. So, if Warren Buffett buys a meal, he is taxed at the same rate as, would you believe, some Piedmont residents. Warren would say sales taxes are regressive, not progressive.
Now, along comes Measure Y, yet another regressive tax. Yes, I understand it has been enacted over many years, but why is that in any way relevant? If your faucet has leaked for a long time, shut the thing off.
Yes, I understand that failure to pass Measure Y would likely result in a $1.6 million reduction going to the general fund each year. But this would provide the City Council time to finally enact the prudent financial reforms endorsed by most, if not all, parties in the City. Moreover, the City was certainly willing to bet much more than that on various projects and lost, yes lost, many times that amount of money. And yet, I think we still have our police and fire and EMT services. Please, please stop the refrain that we will be deprived of these essential services. Says who?
Willie Sutton, when asked why he robbed banks, reasoned that was where the money was. In Piedmont, 75%, yes 75%, of the budget is for employee salaries and benefits, a regime that all Committees have termed unsustainable. Wouldn’t it make more sense to fix this problem before enacting further taxes?
So, back to the regressive nature of Measure Y. Please just consider the hypothesis that a fair number of Piedmont residents are either on fixed incomes, unemployed or underemployed, and who will find it onerous to come up with yet another several hundred dollars for Measure Y taxes. Do you care at all?
Measure Y is yet another example of a contentious issue needlessly elevating the level of hostility and lack of civility not witnessed in 30 years. One cannot attend a Council meeting without a copious supply of medications, hopefully taken in advance so as to permit subsequent doses. Personal attacks among residents, vitriolic interruptions by Council members, where the hell do we live?
So, will a parcel tax be needed in the future? Probably. Is it prudent to pass it now, before the necessary budget controls and financial reforms have been enacted? No. Will the sky fall? What do you think?