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LWV League of Women Voters of California Education Fund
Smart Voter
Alameda County, CA March 2, 2004 Election
Measure S
Municipal Services Tax City Code Amendment
City of Piedmont

2/3rds Approval Required

2,935 / 61.7% Yes votes ...... 1,822 / 38.3% No votes

See Also: Index of all Measures

Results as of May 4 2:39pm, 100.0% of Precincts Reporting (7/7)
Information shown below: Impartial Analysis | Arguments |

Shall Chapter 20B of the Piedmont City Code be amended in its entirety to provide for a Basic Municipal Services Tax as more specifically set forth in Ord. 644 N.S. which is on file with the Piedmont City Clerk?

Impartial Analysis from the Piedmont City Attorney
Measure S is a replacement for the City's current Municipal Services Tax. In 1980 the first Municipal Services Tax was placed before the Piedmont voters and approved, and similar tax measures have been approved every four years thereafter, often by substantial majorities. The intent of each of these tax measures was to supplement the funds generated by real property taxes, sales taxes, and other revenues in order to provide the level of municipal services expected by Piedmont residents.

The Municipal Tax Review Committee comprised of private citizens concluded that there will be a cumulative City deficit of over $2,700,000 by Fiscal Year 2008/09 unless the voters approve a tax increase of 120%. Following the Committee's recommendation, the City Council has placed two measures on the ballot. Measure S would increase the Municipal Services Tax by 90%. Measure T would further increase the current tax by 30%.

Measure S is designed to allow the City to provide police, fire, paramedic, and public works services at a basic level. Measure S will provide $1.8 million each year to be used for police, fire, paramedic, public works and other City services. Without the passage of Measure S, signifi- cant personnel reductions, services cutbacks, decreased maintenance of city parks and streets are possible.

For the past 24 years the City has relied on a Municipal Service Tax to provide services which are expected by the City's residents. Passage of Measure S is important if basic City services are to continue.

City Attorney


LWV Piedmont Pros & Cons Presentation Thursday, February 5, 2004 7:30 PM Piedmont Community Center
This program was taped by KCOM and will be rebroadcast. Check Piedmont's Web site for the KCOM schedule.
News and Analysis


Suggest a link related to Measure S
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Arguments For Measure S Arguments Against Measure S
Renewal of the Basic Municipal Services Tax ("parcel tax"), at the rates proposed by your City Council (an average of $38 per month), will enable Piedmont to continue to provide basic municipal services that residents expect. The parcel tax preserves the 3-minute response times for police, fire, paramedic and ambulance services. Without your support of this first of two parcel taxes, Piedmont's excellent level of public safety services will be severely diminished. Part of your home's value is directly attributable to Piedmont's high level of emergency services.

Every four years since 1980, Piedmont voters have approved a parcel tax. Your City Council uses the tax receipts with prudence and frugality. In fact, in four of the past seven years, they levied less than the maximum allowable amount. Your city government is committed to keeping taxes as low as possible while still maintaining current public safety service levels.

The Municipal Tax Review Committee, comprised of seven financial and tax experts from your community, found that Piedmont has a well-run and cost-efficient government. The Committee found that Piedmont compares favorably with similar cities across every department. When a city has a well-run and cost-efficient government, reducing revenues means reducing services.

No other East Bay city receives as little in sales tax revenue as Piedmont or provides the "extra level" of services that Piedmont residents receive. Piedmont's high level of police protection results in the lowest crime rate in Alameda County. Our ambulance response time is much faster than that of other cities. The "Basic Services" parcel tax is needed to keep our town safe and to provide the services that support our property values.

Every dollar raised by this measure stays in Piedmont. We urge you to renew your commitment and protect your investment in Piedmont. Please vote Yes on Measure S.

s/JOHN CHIANG, Chair, 2003 Municipal Tax Review Committee
s/ABE FRIEDMAN, Councilmember
s/CARL WEST ANDERSON, Piedmont resident
s/LINDSEY MEYERSIECK, Piedmont resident

Rebuttal to Arguments For
Supporters of this tax cannot present a valid reason for its 90% increase. This is because the money generated will go straight into the State's public employees retirement fund. It will remain invested there for years until needed for the pensions of City workers at some future date.

When the Council first discussed the tax, the report from its Tax Review Committee stated that the increase would pay for "significant increases in the City's long-term expense structure primarily related to pension and retirement costs." The report noted "increased pension benefits for all City employees." Other sections documented a doubling of pension costs because of new benefits given to employees. When citizens challenged this justification at Council meetings, tax supporters retreated to a public safety argument, as in their statement above.

Supporters also argue that Piedmont is efficiently run but doesn't have enough sales tax revenue to support its needs. The City may be efficient but it hasn't looked at its basic service structure. If public safety is critical, there are approaches used in other cities that we could adopt here, reducing costs and increasing service levels. If lack of sales tax is an issue, the City could address that by encouraging more local business in appropriate areas such as Grand Avenue. If the Council believes public safety is at risk because it has lost control of pensions, it has ways of dealing with that problem. Doubling the parcel tax is not necessary.

s/MICHAEL RANCER, Professional Budget Director
s/ROYCE A.CHARNEY, President, Trust Administrators Inc.
s/BAYARD J. YOUNG, Securities Broker
s/NANCY YOUNG, Psychologist
s/LEONARD TOM, Professional Public Finance Manager
This 90% tax increase is about only one thing: an increase in retirement pension benefits for virtually every city employee including top administrators.

As presented in the official report to the City Council, Piedmond has committed to individual employee pension increases of up to 35%, and now is looking to the taxpayers to make good on the promise. This promise, doubling the city's cost for employee benefits, requires a doubling of the parcel tax.

In proposing the tax increase, the Council tried to present the issue as essential for both public safety and the maintenance of Piedmont property values. Both claims are false. This huge tax increase will not put a single additional police officer on the street. It will not improve response times by firefighters and paramedics. By imposing an evergrowing tax burden onto the backs of Piedmont homeowners it is more likely to degrade our property values.

At a time when local and state governments are struggling to close gaping holes in their budgets and maintain essential services, the last thing Piedmont needs to do is double a tax just to improve lucrative pensions. Instead, the city needs to rethink how it provides services like public safety. For example, Bay Area cities like Sunnyvale and Rohnert Park have benefitted from integrating police and fire duties by training the same personnel to perform both functions. With fewer public safety employees and less administrative overhead, they enjoy higher levels of service and lower costs.

If the Council really wants to balance the budget while improving public safety, it needs to pursue approaches like this instead of reaching into the voters' wallets for more and higher taxes. Please send this message by voting no on an exorbitant tax increase. Thank you.

s/MICHAEL RANCER, Professional Budget Director
s/GEORGE SHEARER, Small Business Owner
s/JUDY ZOLLMAN, Teacher/Literacy Consultant
s/PEDER S. SORENSEN, Systems Analyst
s/NANCY YOUNG, Psychologist

Rebuttal to Arguments Against

These are the FACTS about Measure S:

  • More than half of Piedmont's increased pension costs are caused by past investment losses at the State pension fund.
  • Piedmont's annual pension contribution will increase by $600,000 even without any pension plan changes.
  • On average, Piedmont pays its employees less than comparably sized Bay Area cities and significantly less than larger sized cities.
  • Piedmont can't keep quality employees if compensation is substantially lower than the labor market.
  • Piedmont improved wages and benefits to slow the loss of experienced and skilled employees to other cities. In 2002 substandard compensation caused the loss of 1/4 of the firefighters/paramedics in just a few months.
  • 99% of jurisdictions nationally do not combine police and fire departments because police and fire departments perform very different jobs. Cities pay higher training costs and wages when employees must qualify for two very different professions.
  • Measure S may not put additional police on the street+ but we need Measure S funds to keep those we have now.
  • We can't cut Piedmont's budget by more than 10% without seeing a huge difference in the quality of city services and in the character of our community. Vote YES on Measures S and T.

    Piedmont City Council
    s/MICHAEL BRUCK, Vice Mayor
    Piedmont City Council
    s/ABE FRIEDMAN, Councilmember
    Piedmont City Council
    s/NANCY McENROE, Councilmember
    Piedmont City Council
    s/JEFF WIELER, Councilmember
    Piedmont City Council

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Created: May 4, 2004 14:40 PDT
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