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Smart Voter
San Mateo County, CA November 3, 2009 Election
Measure Q
Appropriations Limit
Town of Portola Valley

Majority Approval Required

Pass: 891 / 59.8% Yes votes ...... 598 / 40.2% 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 |

Shall the Town of Portola Valley adjust the appropriations limit of the Town each fiscal year commencing July 1, 2010 by the amount of money collected from the Utility Users Tax during the time of its levy and collection, provided that authorization to adjust the appropriations limit shall not exceed four (4) years from the end of Fiscal Year 2009-2010?

Impartial Analysis from The Town Attorney of the Town of Portola Valley
The Council of the Town of Portola Valley has called for a municipal election to present to the Town's qualified electors a ballot measure, which approved by more than 50% of the voters voting on the measure, will authorize an adjustment in the Town's appropriation limit for each of the next four fiscal years starting on July 1, 2010, by the amount of money raised from the imposition of the current utility user's tax. Following the final fiscal year of these four fiscal years, the Town's appropriations limit will revert to the amount it would have been had this ballot measure not received a favorable vote.

If the measure receives a favorable vote, the utility user's tax will continue to be levied and collected at a rate of 4.5% if Measure Q receives a majority vote, or 5.5% if Measure Q does not receive a majority vote. Money collected from this tax levy will be placed in a Town account to fund general governmental projects, including but not limited to, the maintenance of streets, parks, trails and drainage structures. If the measure does not receive a favorable vote, the utility user's tax may not be expended in an amount that would cause the Town to exceed its current appropriation limit.

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Arguments For Measure Q Arguments Against Measure Q
A YES vote on Measure Q will permit Portola Valley to sustain the Utility Users Tax (UUT) for another four years and ensure the Town's continued financial solvency.

Currently, the UUT contributes about $540,000 per year to the general fund. The UUT by policy is limited to providing funding for law enforcement, road maintenance, liability insurance, community events, recreational amenities, and maintenance of fields and facilities at the Town Center.

The UUT is a critical pillar of the Town's financial structure. Unlike most cities, Portola Valley receives minimal sales tax revenue and relies heavily on the UUT and property tax, which together comprise 60% of total revenue. Loss of the UUT would have a significant impact on services and Town operations.

It is important to note the pressures on the Town's balanced budget. For example, Portola Valley has a contract with the Sheriff's Department of San Mateo County for law enforcement services. This contract expense will increase by 30% over the next three years. At the same time, there are risks to the revenues required to provide the Town's services. For example, revenue from permit application fees is down more than 40% this year. In addition, lawmakers in Sacramento have repeatedly threatened to "borrow" money from property taxes and gas taxes that would ordinarily flow to the Town. The risk of State expropriation of Town revenues is likely to continue in coming years. Because the voters of Portola Valley impose the UUT on themselves, it is the one tax that the State can't touch. It is fiscally prudent for the Town to continue maintaining a meaningful percentage of its revenue from a secure source such as the UUT.

We urge everyone to VOTE YES on Measure Q.

/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
Measure Q increases the spending cap set by State law.

We have more than ample revenues for basic services. With no significant increase in population, voters, or street miles, why do we need to increase the Town's spending cap by 15% for the next four years?

Property taxes have increased more than three-fold in five years to $1,750,000. After paying $600,000 for the Sheriff's services, this leaves more than $1,150,000 for "Newsletters", "Postcards", outplacement services and consultants.

Town's "balanced budget" has only minimal reductions. Town received 180K in new federal "TARP" funds for roads last year. Revenues from building fees will increase as the markets return to normal. And the Town's tax base did increase 4%, just this year.

Your household's Utility Taxes will total more than $1,100 over four fours. AND Utility taxes are not 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.

Utility Taxes originated as "emergency funds." Note how a new "Town Emergency" has been created every four years. The current emergency is "State Borrowing." Think of all the emergencies used to justify Utility Taxes over the past 23 years.

End this excessive and unfair tax. Vote No on Q. Reduce everyone's utility costs.

/s/ Bruce Campbell, Tax Payer

/s/ Helga A. Hoenighausen, Tax Payer

/s/ Eric H. Denys, Tax Payer

/s/ Edwin A. Wells, Former Town Treasurer

/s/ Leo F. Hoenighausen, Tax Payer

("adjust the appropriations limits")

When in doubt VOTE NO. What is this all about? You are now expected to approve this 2nd ballot measure to (adjust the appropriations limit). There were only 2 Ballot Measures in prior Utility Tax elections. Vote No on Q for No Utility Taxes.

Let us define this for you. "Adjust" means "increase." "Appropriations" means "spending." "Limit" means "cap." This authorizes "an increase in the spending cap", set by State Law for the Town of Portola Valley.

What is the purpose of this 2nd Ballot Measure? As you learned in P, if Q and R pass, because voters like open space, the Utility Tax could total 7.5% (?).

The State's move to borrow, and repay, only $200,000, will not impact our Town's financial security. Portola Valley has more sufficient reserves for future budgets" $8.0 million as of June 20, 2009. This includes more than $4 million for the general fund, plus $2.5 million for open space.

Portola Valley has ample income and resources for all our basic services. The Town does not need to "increase its spending cap." In 2006, the Town received more than $6,000,000 in "unanticipated" property taxes. Property tax revenues, now at $1.672 million last year, have tripled in five years and will increase 4% more this year.

Your NO Vote will free-up cash you can use to improve your property, for fire protection with brush and tree removal, or for the energy audits promoted by the Town.

Vote NO on increasing the spending cap. Vote NO on Measure Q.

/s/ Carol W. Henderson, Taxpayer

/s/ Gerald G. Henderson, Taxpayer

/s/ Georgia Baba-Clark, Taxpayer

/s/ Alison D. Wells, Taxpayer

/s/ Edwin A. Wells, Taxpayer

Rebuttal to Arguments Against
The figures in the opponents' "Argument AGainst Measure Q" are grossly inaccurate.

First, General Fund reserves are 2,400,000, not 4,000,000 dollars as the opponents assert. These funds constitute a minimal emergency reserve. Portola Valley has about 40% of one year's operating expenditures in reserve whereas Woodside has 100%.

Secondly, decreases in other revenues have overwhelmed the increase in the percentage of our property taxes now returned to the Town by the County. This year the increased percentage of property taxes (referred to as "unanticipated property taxes" by our opponents) will contribute $536,000 of revenue. Offsetting this, however, is the projected loss of $442,00 in interest income, a reduction of $170,000 in building and plan check fees, and $50,000 less in property transfer taxes. These items result in a $662,000 reduction in revenues. In addition, other sources are down: for example, there is a $152,000 reduction in road fees. That is why the Town has cut its budget and why the UUT is crucial to the Town's financial health.

Moreover, given California's ongoing fiscal problems, the State will most likely expropriate property txes from the Town in the future. Revenues from the UUT cannot be touched by the State because they are self-imposed.

The opponents are attempting to destabilize our Town's finances, which have been prudently managed since our Town's incorporation 45 years ago. Few cities match our history of sound financial performance. Let's not tamper with success.

Vote Yes on Measure Q

/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

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Created: December 29, 2009 12:09 PST
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