By Bob Fung
How would you feel about the city adding as much as a 5 percent charge to your monthly electrical or cable TV bill? How would you feel if the city promised to spend part of the money on fixing streets and roads? This and many related issues are discussed at Civenergy (www.civenergy.org) a new nonpartisan civic forum where you, the citizens of Davis, can weigh in with your comments.
Informal discussions about a utility tax have been going on for a couple of years and in July 2015, the City Council formally directed the City staff to study the issue and come back to the City Council with the study results. This is scheduled to take place later this month (December 2015). After reviewing the study results, the City Council has until February of 2016, to decide to drop the matter or to develop a specific proposal and to place that proposal on the ballot for June 2016. If the City Council does approve a utility tax ballot measure by February 2016, the voters of Davis would vote on the measure to approve or reject the measure.
Civenergy (www.civenergy.org) has facilitated a discussion on a possible utility tax in Davis. The participants of the discussion are: Dan Carson, John Munn, and Elaine Roberts-Musser, all of whom are active in Davis civic life. Dan Carson is a member of the Finance and Budget commission. John Munn is a former DJUSD school board member. Elaine Roberts-Musser chaired the City of Davis Water Advisory Committee and was named Davis citizen of the year in 2014. The discussion is still open so you can add your viewpoint to the discussion, or make comments on existing viewpoints. Go to (http://www.civenergy.org/discussions/utility-user-tax-in-davis) to see an introduction to the utility tax discussion. The discussion is a mix of text and video which you can view on your computer, tablet or smartphone. We think it’s a great way to get up-to-speed quickly on the utility tax.
The three discussion participants worked out seven issues they wanted to discuss as well as expressed their individual viewpoints on these issues. The issues they discuss are:
- What is the current financial health of the City of Davis? Opinions on the current financial health of the City of Davis, how the City reached this point and where the City’s finances look like they are going in the next few years.
- Does the city truly need funding from a new tax? Opinions on whether the City of Davis needs a UUT or whether there are better options that could achieve similar results.
- What funding mechanisms could add to the baseline revenue sources? Possible additional funding mechanisms that could be implemented instead of or in parallel to a utility tax include: a parcel tax, economic development, cost reductions, and state funding of infrastructure repairs.
- If a new tax is proposed, what should it be spent on? Possible areas that would benefit from a utility users tax include: road maintenance/repair, City building and facility maintenance, City park maintenance. Other possibilities include new capital facilities or a general revenue source.
- Should a UUT sunset, and if yes, after how long? A sunset is a length of time in years that the tax would be collected. The main options are a “short” time period (4-6 years) or a “long” time period (20-30 years).
- What specific types of utility services should be included in a UUT? Possible utilities to be taxed include water/sewer, electricity/gas, cable tv and telephone/internet. The typical tax is around 5% but could range from 2-10%.
- How can Davis ensure funding from a proposed UUT will be spent on what is intended? Alternatives for trying to ensure funding goes to its intended uses are: keeping the period of the tax short, passing a parallel nonbinding advisory measure, or giving the responsibility to a City commission.
Civenergy.org is non-partisan, we do not favor any particular political party or viewpoint. Our mission is to help Davis residents become more deeply engaged in the Davis community by providing discussions on important issues like the utility tax, discussions on elections and listings of community organizations and volunteer opportunities for residents. In addition, Civenergy aggregates news and events, to help keep residents up to date. All of these are crowd sourced, so if you have a discussion, volunteer opportunity, news item, or event you would like to add, go to Civenergy. It only takes a few minutes.
Civenergy will be partnering with other local community organizations in promoting civic engagement. Our first partnership is with the Davis Vanguard to host community forums on important civic issues. We held our first joint community forum on Davis Nightlife on October 14, 2015.
This is Civenergy’s first facilitated discussion in Davis. We would like to hear what you think about it. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or make comments directly on the discussion at http://www.civenergy.org/discussions/utility-user-tax-in-davis.