Monday, August 01, 2011

Tax Increase Fixation

As a believer in strong government and a strong private sector working together to benefit and serve the public, it was somewhat sad for me to watch the hearings before the County Board of Supervisors Tuesday July 19th about increasing the sales tax to pay for parks.

Sad because there was no evidence coming from the public comments supporting the tax that there was any other way to deal with this issue, with the single exception from the comments by Doug Ose, who is showing that there is another way with his private sector management of Gibson Ranch Park.

It is also sad to see the Sacramento Bee, our hometown newspaper, with such a great history in our fair city, also fail to report, with any degree of balance that there is another way other than tax increases to take care of our parks, as they consistently do and repeat in this editorial.

An excerpt.

“It is no big surprise that, two years after its 50th anniversary, Sacramento County's regional park system is in deep trouble.

“The question that remains is whether the county and parks advocates, facing a budget crisis, can put aside differences and find common ground on a secure funding source and governance structure that everyone can live with.

“It was clear at Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting that all sides agree funding is the top priority. That's the good news. It is also encouraging that polling suggests that county voters would support a small tax hike to provide a dedicated source of revenue for parks.

“But now comes the tough part. As Supervisor Roberta MacGlashan rightly noted at the beginning of the meeting, funding for the parks and governance of the tax revenue cannot be separated. "If you put a tax before the voters," she said, "that question has to be settled."

“Supervisors will have to work hard to keep a coalition together – and to narrow options to what really is feasible.

“Three were discussed:
• An independent regional parks district, with an elected board of directors. The volunteer Grassroots Working Group, formed at the county's urging, recommended this.
• A Community Services District, with an elected board of directors. County staff recommended further study of this option, although countywide community services districts are uncommon.
• A Community Facilities District, with county supervisors as the governing body. Staff recommended further study of this option, too. It would require approval by city councils as well as county supervisors. Landowners (who would get one vote per acre of land) would have to approve a tax to fund the district.

“Supervisors seemed to agree that on funding options, seeking a sales tax from voters is preferable to a parcel tax. Certainly, it's cheaper for residents, since visitors would contribute to the revenue. To generate $10 million a year from a parcel tax would require a flat $21 tax on the county's 471,000 parcels. In contrast, a 1/16th cent sales tax for parks would generate $12 million a year, costing $8.89 each year for an average household.

“Proposals for auto rental and hotel taxes are nonstarters. That's going too far in assessing visitors for an amenity we all enjoy.

“In the end, supervisors voted unanimously to seek legislation that would give them an option to place a 1/10 cent sales tax for parks on the ballot. That's progress.”