City Council Candidates and Other Community Voices on Tax Measure

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walletA number of citizens spoke out on Tuesday night on the council item that ultimately resulted in the Davis City Council voting 5-0 to put a half-cent sales tax measure on the June 2014 ballot.  A parcel tax measure was deferred to a later point, but council expressed a clear interest in putting that on the ballot, perhaps as soon as November 2014.

The following are a sampling of views on the tax measure from the Davis Chamber of Commerce, the Davis Police Officers’ Association, and two candidates for the Davis City Council, Robb Davis and Sheila Allen.

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Chamber: Economic Development Should Be Highest Priority

On 01/28/2014, the Davis Chamber of Commerce polled its members regarding the City’s fiscal situation. In response to that data, and with new revenue scenarios available from City staff, and input from the community, we polled our membership again on 02/10/2014 to “drill down” into specific budgetary actions to put the City on better financial footing.

Our members spoke loud and clear that our community desperately needs to dedicate more resources to economic development activities and jobs growth. The Chamber is ready and willing to support those efforts.

01/28 Poll – Should the City dedicate more resources to Economic Development?

72% – Yes, the City should immediately make more land available for new and growing businesses, actively utilize other economic development tools and dedicate more city staff to these efforts.

19% – Somewhat, the City should make more land available for new and growing businesses in Davis and be more “business friendly” with current staffing levels.

9% – No, the City should be “business friendly” but pro-active efforts are not necessary.

Support & Celebrate Next Steps for the Downtown-University Gateway District.

The Chamber’s top joint objective with our business organization partners for 2012-2014 in our interactions with the City of Davis is to entitle the Nishi/Solano Park/Gateway/Downtown as a mixed-use, innovation district that would provide space for start-ups and tech businesses, as well as much-needed high-density housing in close proximity to UC Davis and downtown. The Chamber is ready and willing to continue to support those efforts.

More Expenditure Cuts Should be Made.

Everyone has felt the pain during the past few years, and we recognize and applaud the City’s significant expenditure reductions. However, 86% of our members felt that more cuts should be made.

01/28 Poll – Should the City further reduce expenditures?

46% – Yes, expenditures should be reduced to meet the ENTIRE shortfall but should not affect Public Safety Service levels.

10% – Yes, expenditures should be reduced to meet at least HALF of the shortfall.

30% – Somewhat, the City has made significant reductions and should continue to cut more but without reducing service levels or cutting programs.

14% – No, the City has reduced expenditures enough and should now focus on increasing revenues.

02/10 Poll – $1.5 million in General Fund reductions (attached) which would not impact safety or economic development service levels.  DO YOU SUPPORT THESE REDUCTIONS?

68% – Yes

19% – Unsure, I don’t have enough information

13% – No

02/10 Poll – Eliminate Subsidy for Parks Programming. A further reduction to the parks programming subsidy could save another $1 million. This would effectively end low-cost youth swim, gymnastics, skate, and other sports lessons, recreation classes for disabled persons, adult fitness (aerobics, yoga, step, tai chi), adult group sports (softball, golf, flag football) and many senior programs. It is likely that these programs could be outsourced and largely kept in their current configuration, but with a higher cost to the individual. DO YOU SUPPORT THIS REDUCTION?

61% – Yes

12% – Unsure, I don’t have enough information.

27% – No

Balancing the City Budget with Taxes

It is very clear that our members’ support of tax measures to close a deficit will be dependent upon a renewed and redoubled commitment to economic development efforts and the further reduction of expenditures.

02/10 Poll – If the City reduced expenditures as described in #1 & #2 above, the deficit for FY2014/2015 would be $0 – $2.5 million depending on many variables outside of the City’s control. DO YOU SUPPORT INCREASING TAXES TO CLOSE THIS POTENTIAL DEFICIT?

68% – Yes

5% – Unsure, I don’t have enough information.

27% – No

What Combination of Taxes, How Much and How Long? *We did not ask about opinion on the timing of the ballots for new taxes.

02/10 Poll – If the City Council increases taxes, WHICH OF THESE SCENARIOS WOULD YOU MOST SUPPORT?

37% – Sales Tax & Parks Parcel Tax Increase

27% – Sales Tax Increase Only

24% – None, I oppose all local tax increases at this time

12% – Parks Parcel Tax Increase Only

02/10 Poll – SALES TAX. Davis currently has a sales tax rate of 8% and will automatically reduce to 7.5% in 2016 unless renewed at that time. Currently, Woodland is 8.25%, Sacramento is 8.5%, West Sacramento is 8.0%, Vacaville is 7.875% and Fairfield is 8.625%. PLEASE INDICATE THE HIGHEST LEVEL OF TAX YOU WOULD SUPPORT.

29% – Sales Tax – no increase

8% – Sales Tax – 1/8% increase = $902,000 annually

29% – Sales Tax – ¼% increase = $1,805,000 annually

3% – Sales Tax – 3/8% increase = $2,707,500 annually

17% – Sales Tax – ½% increase = $3,610,000 annually

8% – Sales Tax – ¾% increase = $5,415,000 annually

5% – Sales Tax – 1% increase = $7,220,000 annually

02/10 Poll – Sales Tax Sunset – please indicate when an increase in sales tax should end or “sunset”.

32% – N/A – Sales Tax should not increase and should sunset in 2016.

12% – 2 years

24% – 4 years

 8% – 6 years

 4% – 8 years

12% –  years

  8% – Never, the increase should be permanent.

02/10 Poll – PARKS PARCEL TAX. All property owners in Davis pay a parcel tax to support the public parks system, residential property owners currently pay $49/year. The Parks Operating Budget is $6.8 million/year and the current tax funds $1.4 million/year of that total. Please indicate the highest level of tax you would support.

41% – Parks Tax – no increase, tax should remain $49/parcel.

14% – Parks Tax – $25 increase = $694,000

29% – Parks Tax – $50 increase = $1,388,000

  2% – Parks Tax – $75 increase = $2,082,000

 6% – Parks Tax – $100 increase = $2,776,000

 3% – Parks Tax – $125 increase = $3,470,000

  2% – Parks Tax – $150 increase =$4,163,000

  0% – Parks Tax – $175 increase = $4,857,000

  3% – Parks Tax – $200 increase = $5,551,000

02/10 Poll – Parks Parcel Tax Sunset – please indicate when an increase in parks tax should end or “sunset”.

42% – N/A – Parks Parcel Tax should not increase and should sunset in 2018.

 9% – 2 years

15% – 4 years

 7% – 6 years

  2% – 8 years

10% – 10 years

  2% – 20 years

13% – Never, the increase should be permanent

02/10 Poll – Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT).  A special 10% tax on hotel rooms currently generates $1.13 million per year. Currently, Woodland is 11%, Sacramento is 12%, Fairfield is 10% and San Francisco is 14%. PLEASE INDICATE THE HIGHEST LEVEL OF TAX INCREASE YOU WOULD SUPPORT.

30% – TOT – no increase, tax should remain at 10%

20% – TOT – increase tax by 1%, raising an additional $113,000 annually

29% – TOT – Increase tax by 2%, raising an additional $226,000 annually

11% – TOT – Increase tax by 3%, raising an additional $339,000 annually

10% – TOT – Increase tax by 4%, raising an additional $452,000 annually

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DPOA President Ryan Bellamy

Davis Police Officers’ Association President Ryan Bellamy Spoke out on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at the Davis City Council Meeting in favor of the city council putting tax revenue on the ballot.

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City Council Candidate Robb Davis

City Council Candidate Robb Davis Spoke out on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at the Davis City Council Meeting about the need for laying out the full magnitude of the fiscal challenges ahead, as well as creating transparent processes to assure citizens that tax revenues will be used prudently.

Text submitted:

Mayor Krovoza and members of the Council.  Tonight you face a difficult decision on how to deal with the fiscal challenges confronting our city. I am appreciative of your efforts working with the City Manager and staff over the past several years to bring the challenges to light and deal with them transparently and forthrightly.

I understand that legal requirements related to when items must be submitted for ballot inclusion mandate an immediate focus on solutions, but I am concerned that we are considering those solutions without having a full accounting of the fiscal problems they appear to be only partially addressing.  For example, I have followed the discussion of the road maintenance backlog over the past year and the solutions on offer tonight do not appear to clearly and systematically deal with that maintenance backlog problem.

Staff reports indicate that it would take a total expenditure of 213 million dollars over the next 20 years to maintain a PCI that is merely “acceptable” and at the end of that period we would still have a maintenance backlog of 132 million dollars.

And roads are just one area of maintenance backlog.  What I have not seen is an accounting of other maintenance needs and backlogs related to city-owned buildings (including fire stations), parks and pools.

My concern is that with your decision tonight you may be sending a potentially confusing, mixed message to the community.  The combination of sales and parcel tax increases will address the immediate problems we are facing, but it is only a partial solution.  To systematically address the maintenance costs of our current infrastructure, a future council may well have to return to the Davis citizens with further requests for service cuts and/or tax increases.  Failing to be clear about that now can lead to confusion, frustration and a sense that transparency is lacking in the future.

And yet I know you must move ahead with a decision tonight. And so, as an explicit part of that decision, I would ask you to also instruct staff to return to you within one month with a fuller accounting of all the other infrastructure backlog needs.  Further I would urge you to ask them to put into place a process for conducting routine “reserve analyses” of all critical city infrastructure so that we will have a regularly updated and transparent assessment of what future needs will be.  In this way the citizens can be fully informed about what is coming and the City Councils of the future can appropriately budget for future infrastructure maintenance needs.

The same process of building transparency should accompany the proposed sales tax increase.

Whether through a separate advisory ballot item,

OR through using the existing Finance and Budget Commission to produce an annual, independent “scorecard” or report to the City about the use of sales tax revenues,

OR by structuring the initiative so its renewal (or the renewal of the current sales tax increase) comes back to the voters in a shorter term,

or in some other way, I urge you to take steps to assure citizens that you will use increased revenue prudently.

I appreciate deeply your leadership and wish you much collective wisdom as you make these decisions tonight.

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City Council Candidate Sheila Allen

City Council Candidate Sheila Allen Spoke out on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at the Davis City Council Meeting in favor of the city council putting tax revenue on the ballot.

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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2 thoughts on “City Council Candidates and Other Community Voices on Tax Measure”

  1. SODA

    I was impressed with Robb Davis’ comments to the CC last night. He is often articulate but last night I also saw a forceful delivery of content he felt strongly about. Good to see in a canidate!

  2. Frankly

    Nice contrast in styles, tone and messaging. Robb did a really solid job. I really like his focus on the key points he wanted to make. That demonstrates some of the qualities that I want to see in my council members.

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