In a co-authored op-ed, Jose Granda and Tom Randall bring us another argument against the schools parcel tax… oh wait, the city sales tax. Unfortunately, once again, they miss the critical issues facing the city and make fundamental errors in their analysis.
They write, “This measure seeks to raise the sales tax in Davis to 8.5 percent, making it the highest in Yolo County. It would be very bad for businesses in Davis. Local residents will shop in other cities to buy their goods where the sales tax rate is comparatively lower, and sales of appliances, goods and cars would diminish, thereby damaging the local economy.”
Other areas have relatively similar tax rates: Woodland is 8.25%, Sacramento is 8.5%, West Sacramento is 8.0%, Vacaville is 7.875% and Fairfield is 8.625%. What does the 0.5% between West Sacramento and Davis amount to? 50 cents for $100, $5 for $1000, $50 for $10,000. In other words, you pay more in gas and wear on your car to shop in other cities based on the actual price difference. And, by the way, if you buy a car, you pay Davis’ tax rate regardless of where you purchase it.
They continue: “The Davis City Council has mismanaged the $248 million it receives from taxpayers and has caused a $4.99 million structural deficit.”
The opponents of Measure O continue to conflate the all-funds budget with the general fund. All-funds is a huge budget which includes things like the enterprise fund that has no bearing on the operating of the city.
“Now, in an act of arrogance, the council wants you to pay for its mistakes by digging in your pocket as if Davis residents were an ATM where cash is readily available whenever they run the budget in the red.”
The city of Davis did mismanage the budget up until about 2000. However, the city has been dealing with a budget from 2008 until the present and only now is it asking for revenue hikes. In 2010 and 2012, it asked only for renewals on existing taxes. So it is false to imply that they are using citizens are an ATM “whenever” they run the budget in the red – the budget has been in the red for six years, the city has in that time slashed city staff and dealt with structural issues in the budget.
“Measure O is not about parks, roads, sidewalks, bike paths and street lights. None of those are in the text of the measure; please read it. Measure O is a 1 percent tax for ‘general government purposes.’ The council can spend it on anything, including employee salaries, pensions and benefits for retired employees.”
They are partially correct here, but do not apparently understand the issue. Of the $3.7 million in revenue, the city has projected $2.5 million to cover increased costs of employee compensation while ticketing about $1.2 million for roads and other infrastructure. There is some debate over how that money will be used, but at least two councilmembers have assured the Vanguard this week they will be making the addition $1.2 million in cuts and leaving the roads budget intact.
They continue, “Measure O is not temporary.” This is a misinterpretation as to what temporary means. Temporary in this context means that the measure sunsets and would have to go back to the voters for re-approval. The opposition argues, “It obligates you to pay an additional $3.6 million a year to the city of Davis for the next six years, but as these measures go, it will be forever.”
It could last forever, but that again will be a choice of the voters.
They continue, “When the City Council discussed the measure, it deliberately did not earmark it exclusively for roads and bike paths but mostly to fulfill its commitments for employee compensation, pensions and retiree benefits.”
That was part of the problem – they couldn’t earmark it for anything, as it is a general purpose tax. They have discussed a parcel tax for the fall that would address the bulk of the roads issues.
“They already get $248 million from you through property taxes and current sales taxes. Why can’t they fix the potholes in the streets with that amount of money? If they haven’t done so with $248 million, can you trust they will do so with another $3.6 million for ‘government purposes’?”
Because they fundamentally do not understand what that $248 is and what it can or cannot do. Only the $42 million in the general fund can go to things like streets. The city for years relied on state and federal funds for roads. That money, however, was inconsistent over the last decade and has dried up since the last trickle came in through the stimulus plan. Council deserves criticism for the failure to prioritize a general fund stream of revenue for roads, but make no mistake, that $248 million is a false number.
“Measure O is brought to you by the same council that brought you the tripling of the water rates, prompting citizens to revolt and bring you Measure P to reverse them,” they write, failing to note that the voters approved Measure I by a 54-46 margin.
They continue, “Now, school board members (as individuals) are supporting Measure O. This is the same board that has earned the public’s distrust, that brought you the Nancy Peterson ordeal and that proposed four parcel tax ballot measures in 18 months.”
They add, “One of the board members, Sheila Allen, wants to transfer her tax-and-spend pattern from the school board to the City Council. Vote no on Measure O and vote no on Allen by voting for other candidates.”
And, of course, they have to bring up the half-cent issue again.
They write, “Please read the ballot. Measure O asks for a ‘one-cent’ addition to the sales tax rate. What is one penny, you wonder? This ballot language is false and misleading. If it passes, it will charge you ‘one percent’ of anything you buy, not ‘one cent.’ It is deliberately written like that to mislead the voters and make it easier to pass.”
They conclude, “Vote no on Measure O and send a clear message to these politicians. Their spending habits are out of control. Bring the City Council to its senses by voting no on Measure O, voting yes on Measure P and electing John Munn and Daniel Parrella to the City Council. They’re the only candidates with the taxpayers’ best interests in mind.”
Daniel Parrella. for what it is worth. told the Vanguard that, as he mentioned in the candidate’s forums, he is in favor of Measure O. He also opposes Measure P.
—David M. Greenwald reporting