Bear Head Rock @ Yosemite Valley Trail
Council Gridlock: Local Police, Sales Tax Increase Lose

City Council Can't Pass Half-Cent Sales Tax Increase

(UPDATE: City Council deadlocks 2-2 at February 27 meeting. Now what? Stay tuned for details.)

By Lionel Emde, Riptide Correspondent
At its February 27 meeting, Pacifica City Council will consider a one-half point (cent) sales tax increase for inclusion on the June 2012 ballot.
The city staff report, while detailing the "Financing City Services Task Force" history of previous actions, omits the failed attempt to increase the sales tax in 2009. The council placed a 1 percentage point sales tax increase on the ballot in February 2009, which then failed by a 60+ percent "no" vote on June 2, 2009. A "Fire Suppression Assessment" that purported to save firefighting services failed in April 2011, resulting in elimination of the city attorney's position and outsourcing of police dispatch, as has been done in other San Mateo County cities.
Since then, the only tax increase to pass has been the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT), which added 2 points to the hotel tax that visitors pay.
The new revenue claimed by the city through this increased tax is less than $1.1 million, and the cost to taxpayers to try passing it on the ballot is $54,000. The increase would take effect in October 2012 if it passes.


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I think it's important to clarify what a sales tax increase means. By passing such an increase by a 50 percent + 1 majority, the funds generated will be "unspecified," meaning that they do not have to "save the police from being outsourced to the county."

The funds will be deposited in the General Fund, from which the City Council will have total discretion as to their expenditure. To assume that they will do what people are wanting them to do in regards to the police department, well, you'd have to believe that they've done a good job of managing municipal finances so far.

Do you believe that?

Rich, the possible sales tax increase is not connected to the police department's survival. There is no guarantee whatsoever that the police department won't be outsourced if the increase is ever approved. The two are structurally and fiscally unrelated to each other, and if you are being informed that they are, then that source is grossly misrepresenting both separate issues to the point of fraud.

I will probably vote for the half-cent increase when it goes on the ballot. Not exactly what I want to do, but I want to outsource the police even less and I would rather not downgrade city services such as the pool and kids programs. But I have serious doubts about a tax increase passing in the June (Republican primary) election. I can only hope that if it passes, it will get us by for five years while a (hopefully) more growth-oriented council will consider revenue-generating projects such as development of the old sewage treatment plant.
Kathy, if San Mateo County gets control of the golf course, it may very well increase the fees and Pacifica may see a portion of that. Certainly golfers bring revenue into Pacifica, and they would bring more if there were more restaurant, hotel, and shopping choices.

"What a cold-hearted..."
Wow, were you watching the same meeting I was watching? Mary Ann is anything but cold-hearted. She agonized over the vote. Anyone could see that she really cares. She did not sound anti-police to me at all. In fact, a little too pro-police for my taste. I just have to respect her for explaining herself very well. Whoever was putting this campaign forward really set her up. It sounds like tons of misinformation was out there already. "Vote for the tax or we lose the police." That was the message I kept hearing from the audience. Isn't that what happened with the old fire assessment? Mary Ann did not want the public to have misinformation, period, even if it meant that she had to vote against what I think she totally believes in. She sounded totally conflicted but voted for the public good as she should. Thank you, Mary Ann. We need more stand-up people in town like her. We need more people in public office like her in general.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Previous commenter Linty Marr was referring to Len Stone, not Mary Ann Nihart. Per Riptide terms of service, I deleted the noun that Linty used to characterize Stone.)

"At least she was honest enough to tell us that she spoke with 'many political consultants.'"

I will be most interested to hear what Ms. Nihart has to say about this vote. It may be that the consultants told her that it would be DOA before the public. That's certainly how I feel about it, and I'm not getting the sense that it has much support in the community. If she voted against it to save the $54,000 that would be wasted by putting this futile measure on the ballot, she did the right thing.

So Nihart and Stone vote "yes" to declare a fiscal emergency, but then won't let the people decide by voting "no" on the ballot measure because, well, you just can't trust the public to understand or do the right thing? Come on! When the Titanic is going down, there's no time to decide which lifeboat looks most seaworthy! And talk about stabbing our Police Department in the back; hope the voters won't forget Mary Ann's vote. At least she was honest enough to tell us that she spoke with "many political consultants." Now she can spend all her time getting Pacifica voted the top dog park city on the coast, you know, the important stuff. At least with Stone, it was the ideological purity of a Tea Party true believer; the city can go to blazes before we raise a penny in taxes even if it means our essential services are outsourced at the cost of all those jobs, families, and community ties. What a cold-hearted -------.

They could raise the same amount of money by levying a tax on rounds at Sharp Park golf course.

What I should have said is that the TOT was the only tax proffered by the city that has passed. The school districts are a separate set of issues.

And you're spot on, Jake, about the newly enforced property tax deduction rules. Evidently these laws have been on the books and never enforced before now, when the state is scrambling for revenue. This tax year there is an advisory for people not to deduct the whole amount, as has been the custom. Next year, it will be full-on enforcement.

Even the experts I've read in K. Pender's Chronicle column seem unsure about all the ramifications of this new tax increase, which is the net effect for many people.

I'm not trying to split hairs, but the tax that went to subsidize the Pacifica School District (PSD) passed as well. Be aware that beginning next year, the Franchise Tax Board will scrutinize the federal income tax returns of homeowners who itemize their deductions. It will look at whether special assessments, like the one for PSD, are included in the amount claimed by the taxpayer on the line for real estate taxes. As of now, I am uncertain whether the sewage charge is allowed. In California, special assessments are not deductible. To verify the deductible portion, taxpayers will need to provide their APN.

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