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Smart Voter
San Mateo County, CA November 3, 2009 Election
Measure P
Utility Users' Tax
Town of Portola Valley

Majority Approval Required

Pass: 1,229 / 82.6% Yes votes ...... 259 / 17.4% No votes

See Also: Index of all Measures

Results as of Dec 29 12:09pm, 100.0% of Precincts Reporting (3/3)
27.8% Voter Turnout (77,340/277,759)
Information shown below: Impartial Analysis | Arguments | Full Text

Do the people of the Town of Portola Valley adopt an ordinance that continues the reduced four and one-half percent (4.5%) Utility Users Tax levied on telephone, gas, water, and electricity, set forth in Chapter 3.32 of the Portola Valley Municipal Code, for a period of four (4) years from July 1, 2010 through June 30, 2014?

Impartial Analysis from the Town Attorney for the Town of Portola Valley
This measure asks whether the people of Portola Valley wish to continue the reduction of the existing five and one-half percent (5.5%) Utility User's Tax levied on telephone, gas, water, and electricity charges to four and one-half percent (4.5%) for a period of four years from July 1, 2010 through June 30, 2014, at which time the tax will revert to five and one-half percent (5.5%). A "Yes vote is in favor of continuing the reduction of the Utility User's Tax to four and one-half (4.5%). A "No" vote is not in favor of reducing the Utility User's Tax. In order for the tax to continue to be reduced to four and one-half percent (4.5%), the ballot measure must be approved by more than fifty percent (50%) of the voters voting on the measure.

The proceeds from the Utility User's Tax are deposited into the Town's General Fund and are expended for general governmental purposes including but not limited to, the maintenance of streets, parks, trails, and drainage structures. If the ballot measure does not receive a favorable majority vote, the five and one-half percent (5.5%) Utility User's Tax will continue to be levied and collected at a rate of five and one-half percent (5.5%).

This ballot measure does not affect the Town's second Utility User's Tax, a two percent (2%) Utility Users Tax on telephone, gas, water, and electricity charges, the proceeds of which are deposited into the Town's restricted Open Space Fund.

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Arguments For Measure P Arguments Against Measure P
VOTE YES on Measure P for a four-year reduction of the Utility Users Tax (UTT).

Prudent financial management has always characterized Portola Valley's government. With its small efficient staff and volunteer tradition, the Town serves its residents with the lowest municipal budget per resident in San Mateo County.

Since 1985, our residents have repeatedly approved a UTT to enable a balanced budget. Historically the tax rate was 5 1/2%. However, in 2005, the Town successfully negotiated an increase in the percentage of real estate taxes returned from the County, enabling a temporary reduction in the tax rate to 4 1/2%.

The current economic recession has hit local government hard. Projected revenue losses have made balancing budgets difficult for all municipalities, including Portola Valley.

The UTT must be reauthorized by the voters again this year. The Town could seek restoration of the historic 5 1/2% tax rate, but the Town Council recognizes the financial pressures facing many residents. For this reason the Council recommends the lower 4 1/2% rate for four more years. In combination with this action, the Town has taken numerous belt-tightening steps in the 2009 - 10 budget, including

  • a freeze on all staff salaries;

  • a postponement of capital improvement projects;

  • deferral of equipment purchases;

  • reductions in outlay for building and planning services;

  • elimination of previously planned staff positions; and

  • reductions in expenditures for committees and consultants.

These actions ensure that the Town will continue to deliver balanced budgets while offering tax relief to residents over the next four years. Essential services, such as law enforcement and emergency planning, have not been reduced.

We urge the voters to VOTE YES on Measure P.

/s/ Ann Wengert, Mayor

/s/ Steve Toben, Vice Mayor

/s/ L.W. "Bill" Lane, Jr., Former Mayor

/s/ Ed Davis, Former Mayor

/s/ Michele Takei, Chair, Town Finance Committee

Rebuttal to Arguments For
(Study P - Q - R - they are hooked together)

Vote NO on Q to STOP Utility Taxes

Vote YES on P to protect the 4.5% Utility Tax against Measure Q

This Utility Tax "reduction" is no gift. With our 40% increase in water, electric, and gas costs in four years, the town will get 15% more utility taxes this year at 4.5% than four years ago at 5.5%. Do the math.

The council selected the 4.5% tax, rather than 5.5%, because it would be palatable to voters and improve the passage of Measure Q. But Vote YES for P for protection.

The Town now receives a full 7% of the property taxes paid to the County. It was only 4% when the Utility Tax was initiated. Since 2006, the Town has received more than $6,000,000 in "unanticipated" property taxes from: County reimbursements, the 7% tax change, reassessments, and new construction.

All cities are tightening their belts. Most have have deficits. PV is solvent with very healthy reserves. The current budget was only very slightly reduced and "planned staff positions" were long unoccupied.

Why is this extra tax still needed?

Why have Town revenues and our Utility Taxes tied to ballooning utility costs?

Stop the Utility Tax. Vote NO on Q to end this excessive, unfair tax.

/s/ Leo F. Hoenighausen, Tax Payer

/s/ Eric H. Denys, Tax Payer

/s/ Bruce Campbell, Tax Payer

/s/ Helga A. Hoenighausen, Tax Payer

/s/ J. Michael Pinneo, Tax Payer

(4.5% Utility Tax Reduction - STUDY All Three Measures: P, Q, R, Now)

With these 3 Interrelated Ballot Measures, voters face very confusing choices.

Note: P@4.5% or 5.5%, Q@??%, plus R@2.0% = 6.5% (?) or 7.5% (?)

If you vote No on P the Utility Tax will go up to 5.5%. Vote Yes on P for protection against Measure Q. A YES vote on P will get you 1% less tax if Q does pass.

Only a NO on Q returns 0.0% Utility Taxes. It's rigged so that your NO vote on Q means that R, Open Space won't pass. Get it? You want Open Space so badly that you vote for Q + a 7.5% (?) non-deductible tax.

The State's borrowing $200,000 won't impact our Town's financial security. Portola Valley has sufficient reserves for future budgets: $8.0 million on 6/30/2009.

We are OK without Utility Taxes now because of increased Property Taxes. In 2006, the Town received more than $6,000,000 in unanticipated property taxes. Property tax revenues, now at $1.672 million per year, have tripled in five years and will increase 4% more this year.

Utility Taxes now cost each household $250 or more per year in cash. Utility taxes will increase about 8% this year. Your household's Utility Taxes will total more than $1,100 over four years. AND, Utility Taxes are not income tax deductible.

Utility taxes are also imposed on our few retail and commercial businesses. This is unfair to them because similar businesses in Ladera, Woodside, and Menlo Park do not pay such Utility Taxes.

Let's end these unfair, unnecessary, and regressive taxes by voting NO on Measure Q.

/s/ Georgia Baba-Clark, Taxpayer

/s/ Carol W. Henderson, Taxpayer

/s/ Gerald G. Henderson, Taxpayer

/s/ Alison D. Wells, Taxpayer

/s/ Edwin a. Wells, Former Town Treasurer

Rebuttal to Arguments Against
In order to create the image that our Town is flush with monies the authors of the "Argument Against Measure P" are using grossly distorted figures. Here are the facts:

  • the Town did not receive "more than $6 million in unanticipated property taxes since 2006." The correct amount is $1,753,504. An additional $1.8M was received as one-time tax settlement with the County.

  • The opponents have included the payment of the Vehicle License Fees "Swap" by the State in their property tax figures in order to say that property tax revenues have tripled in five years.

  • Even when including the Vehicle License Fees, these tax revenues will not increase 4% this year. The County has told us the sum will be 2%.

  • The general fund reserves is $2.4M. This is about 40% of one year's budgeted expenditures - the lowest figure in decades. (Woodside has reserves equal to 100% of their budget.)

On the other hand, we agree with our opponents on three items:

- Our Town's Budget shows an 8% utility cost increase. This is due to the need to water new sports fields.

- The Open Space UUT is contingent upon voters' approval of the General Fund UUT. Since the original enactment of the UUT years ago, our residents have recognized the necessity of covering basic services such as law enforcement before earmarking funds for open space.

We, and our opponents, are requesting a Yes vote on Measure P.

/s/ Kirke Comstock, Former Mayor

/s/ Sue Crane, Former Mayor

/s/ Ted Driscoll, Former Mayor

/s/ Jon Silver, Former Mayor

/s/ Onnolee Trapp, Former President, Sequoias Residents' Council

Full Text of Measure P
Whereas the Citizens of the Town of Portola Valley ("Town") wish to continue the reduction of the 5.5% Utility Users Tax imposed on users of telecommunications, electricity, gas, and water to 4.5%.

Now, therefore, the Citizens of the Town do ordain as follows:

1. Amendment of Code. Section 3.32.075 (Reduction in General Tax) of Chapter 3.32 (Telephone, Gas, Water and Electricity Users' Tax) of Title 3 (Revenue and Finance) of the Portola Valley Municipal Code is hereby amended to read as follows:

3.32.075 Reduction in General Tax: The five and one-half percent (5.5%) taxes imposed on telephone users set forth in Section 3.32.040, electricity users set forth in Section 3.32.050, gas users set forth in Section 3.32.060, and water users set forth in Section 3.32.070 are each reduced to four and one-half percent (4.5%) for a period of four (4) years from July 1, 2010 through June 30, 2014.

2. Environmental Review. This Ordinance is not a project for the purposes of the California Environmental Quality Act.

3. Effective Date. The effective date of this ordinance shall be ten (10) days after the date when the Town Council declares the results of the election at which the Ballot Measure regarding this Ordinance is adopted by a majority vote of the electors voting on the Measure. The extension of the reduction of the Utility User's Tax shall not occur until July 1, 2010.

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Created: December 29, 2009 12:09 PST
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