While the council is continuing to plan to move forward on revenue measures, they received a dose of what might await a campaign if opposition coalesces against the revenue measure – which presumably would need a two-thirds vote to pass, and therefore would be vulnerable to any sort of real opposition.
The public comment therefore was telling.
Alan Pryor said the most important factor in passing a tax measure “is that the citizens have trust in city management. That their money will be used wisely and that we’ll be told the truth about what our actual needs are and what the money will be used for.”
Mr. Pryor said in previous campaigns that he trusted the city management to do what they said they would, however, this time, he warned, “I’m not sure I can do that with a straight face anymore.”
He noted that over the last 15 years, every revenue measure “was followed up within eight months with huge employee salary increases that gobbled up every penny of money we raise.
“We have a workforce that on average receives $130,000 per year, yet we’re proposing that we give out two percent salary increases every year going forward in the future. And we hear that within a
few years, we’re going to be facing $8 million more per year for future retiree pensions and health care costs,” he continued.
He warned that we are proposing an $8 million tax for parks and roads, but will then have to come up with $8 million in the future for salaries and pensions. “I think it’s pretty obvious that some in the community are going to be scratching their heads about that if they think about it,” he said.
He added that, with respect to the parks tax, “I think we were given bogus numbers by the consultant report.” He noted it was based “on completely absurd assumptions” that “we were going to have to tear up every single park and roll out new turf.”
He said, “Fortunately cooler heads prevailed on that.” He said, “That in itself questions the validity of the entire report.” He questions the remaining report, noting that it describes “distressed equipment” at every park needing replacement. He believes that the parks are fine, “like it has 15 to 20 years at least.”
Elaine Roberts Musser questioned the need for a social services tax, which she says city staff concedes has not been historically covered by the city.
“Social services are the purview of the county,” she explained. “I am not in favor of allowing the county to abdicate its responsibilities because the city has decided to subject its citizens to double taxation for such services. In my opinion, a social services tax incorporated into a more comprehensive transportation parks maintenance parcel tax will ultimately be the poison pill that dooms any such revenue measure.”
She said that the $125 parks tax and $125 transportation tax would be warranted. But she warns, “How much are Davisites willing to tax themselves to address these unmet needs?”
She said that “$250 or $300 a year can be a real burden for seniors on fixed incomes, young families with children, or those barely making ends meet.”
She also noted that “no economic development means never ending tax increases and new tax measures. The city needs to proactively encourage economic development.”
Ron Glick said, “I always have supported the city’s efforts to raise taxes.” He turned his ire to paid parking, noting if you went downtown for two hours each day that works out to between $900 and $1000 extra just to park. “So I’m worried about how much I’m going to be paying because I like to go downtown and there’s going to be parking meters down there.
“There’s no hard figures about what parking’s going to cost downtown,” he said. “On the one hand, you’re going to tax going downtown to manage the parking. On the other hand, you want people to vote for additional taxes for the city to do things that need to be done.”
He said, “I see the need… I’m just cautious.”
Mayor Robb Davis responded to some of the public comments.
The mayor said, “We have tasked staff with doing careful analysis of our needs.”
He acknowledged that when staff got the Kitchell report, staff recognized that the turf replacement portion was not how the city does business and “they corrected it.” He said, “There was no sense that there were other parts of the report that were lacking, that was the sole part that the FBC [Finance and Budget Commission] thought was problematic, staff agreed and did something about it.”
He also noted on pensions that “our own consultant has made it clear to us that if we give zero raises over the next ten years, our pension costs are going to go up by over $6 million. That’s just a reality.
“We can’t lie to the community,” he said. “We’re not hiding anything. Some of the money from these parcel taxes will go to compensation. It can’t not go to compensation.
“Even if we did zero in terms of any compensation changes and added zero staff, those millions would be hard-baked in,” he said. “That doesn’t mean we can’t seek cost containment.”
Mayor Davis addressed the social services tax. “Not a core city service?” he asked. “Really, we’ve never been funding affordable housing in this community for the last 30 years? We didn’t build our affordable housing on RDA?
“There was a time when we considered that core to our identity, and then the state took it away,” he said. “Because the state took RDA away, does that mean that we’re no longer committed to affordable?”
He said, “I’m not buying that.” He added, “we’ve had an inclusionary housing ordinance for a long time. We used that money to create hundreds of units of permanently affordable housing here and that money is gone forever.”
He argued that a portion of that $50 parcel tax could go to a fund which is a continued housing trust fund to ensure we don’t lose the stuff we have. “We need them,” he said. “This is a core service in the community. We’ve always supplied affordable housing in this community.
“We’re not talking about something new, we’re talking about going back to what we were doing before,” he stated.
—David M. Greenwald reporting