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Rancer Wants to Reconvene Municipal Tax Review Committee in Wake of Measure A's Failure

Michael Rancer, chair of Piedmont's Municipal Tax Review Committee, said Tuesday night that he'll ask the city council to reconvene the MTRC. Measure A opponent Rich Schiller said Piedmont voters "posted a clear message that any future parcel tax will be

Michael Rancer, chair of Piedmont's Municipal Tax Review Committee, said Tuesday night that he'll ask the Piedmont City Council to reconvene the MTRC in the wake of Measure A's failure at the ballot box.

Measure A, the sewer tax surcharge, got a 50.93 percent "yes" vote in the Piedmont Municipal Election but needed a two-thirds majority to pass.

The measure was meant to raise funds to replace about 40 percent of the city's sanitary sewer system. The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has ordered Piedmont and several other East Bay cities to repair or replace their aging sanitary sewer systems to avoid overflow and leakage into the storm drain system.

Rancer said he wasn't surprised at the vote, "not in the least."

"I think that while the EPA mandate, to me, is clear, there are a lot of financial questions that really need to be refined that we didn’t get to," Rancer said.

"I’m going to ask council to reconvene and give us 60 to 90 days and answer all the questions that have come up on sewer financing.

"There are answers, but the city hasn’t shared those with the voters in a way for them to understand. We want to prepare a really tight financial plan. My sense is there is still need for a sewer tax surcharge."

Measure A Foe Praises Voters

Rick Schiller, a vocal opponent of Measure A and the author of the ballot argument against it, issued the following statement:

"I am grateful that Piedmonters voted down Measure A and, in doing so, posted a clear message that any future parcel tax will be a referendum on good governance, financial accountability and honesty. The Post chose to attack me personally and disguised its editorial bias as news articles instead of using its widely read community forum to inform voters of both sides of the sewer tax issue. Instead of posting the careful investigation Tom Clark and myself undertook, including direct communication with the EPA, our letters and my LWV Forum comments were grossly misstated and neither of us was directly contacted by the Post.

"I am grateful to Tom Clark, with his many years of public sector legal experience, for his  invaluable contribution. MTRC member Ryan Gilbert deserves special recognition for critically looking at the complete picture and then opposing Measure A.

"Perhaps our City Staff can also benefit from some of the investigation done, both by opponents and the careful piedmontcivic.org investigation into the sewer fund and related issues. Regardless of the failure of this unneeded tax, Piedmonters can be proud of continuing to do the right thing environmentally with our aggressive compliance program already under way, both for EPA requirements and residential sewer lateral testing and replacement. By a 1993 EPA order we were required to replace 48% of our mainline sewer, the leakiest sections, by 2014. By 2010 we had replaced 60%. The often heard 'we are in the lead' is a reality other cities wish they could follow.  

"I am optimistic we can have an honest and transparent dialogue on future issues, especially those that are of financial concern. Using tax dollars judiciously means more resources for us to enjoy in this wonderful city."

Rick Schiller February 08, 2012 at 07:46 PM
The EPA Compliance Officer, Michelle Moustakas, on Nov 23 emailed me the following: "The 2011 SO requires that Piedmont (and each of the other Satellites) submit a sewer repair and replacement plan as part of its Asset Management Implementation Plan, due July 2015. The specific requirements for what must be included in this part of the plan are at subparagraph 73.B.3. The SO does not specify a deadline by which Piedmont must complete the mainline sewer replacement work, nor is there a stipulation for penalties to be assessed against Piedmont if they fail to replace or repair a certain length of pipe each year." (note: the 2015 was a typo by Ms. Moustakas). The plan entered by Piedmont on July 15, 2012 is what becomes enforceable; if we put in a plan requiring in excess of 5% replacement annually, then that become enforceable; that was the plan given by Staff to the MTRC. Internal City documents show the City's consultant concerning the 2011 Stip. Order determined 1% replacement annually would satisfy the EPA. This was the main point of confusion for voters. Piedmont must and is complying with the EPA and can do so under the current sewer tax. Compliance does not include accelerated (characterized as aggressive by staff) mainline replacement unless Piedmont enters that plan by July 15, 2012. Any plan is dependent on available funding, as the City's Sewer System Management Plan (SSMP) states.

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