In last week’s column, I explained that three supervisors, Ted Williams, Mo Mulheren and Glenn McGourty, plan to impose a sales tax on the November ballot. The stated purpose of their proposed sales tax is to provide funding for local fire departments and a resurrected county water agency.
To their credit and recognizing that the citizens of the county are going through tough economic times, Supes John Haschak and Dan Gjerde are opposing their colleagues’ misguided and misguided proposal.
There is absolutely no doubt that local fire departments, especially in the area of providing life-saving ambulance services, need to receive additional funding as this is a past, present and continuing top priority. . No arguments there.
Keep in mind, though, that Friends of the Library groups in every city have been planning since 2019 to impose a sales tax measure on the November ballot, a move supervisors were not only aware of but tacitly encouraged. As an editorial in the Ukiah Daily Journal pointed out last Sunday, “A proposal pitting libraries against fire services is not fair and any ballot with two tax measures will likely see voters say no to both.”
Also, as I told you before, I served on a steering committee that deals with the re-establishment of a county water agency, but I do not support the funding of an agency. which has no defined organizational structure and purpose. This is currently an unfinished work in progress. In summary, the proposed sales tax measure is both premature and lacking any widespread public support at this time.
By far, the public reception is that they don’t trust the supervisors with this unguided missile of a sales tax. I also hear that the cities of Fort Bragg and Willits disagree with the proposal.
This week, Willits Mayor Saprina Rodriguez sent supervisors an email broadly outlining all the many reasons why the tax proposal is an idea whose time is not right.
I couldn’t agree with Mayor Rodriguez more if I had written the letter myself.
Here is his analysis of the proposed tax measure and his advice to Supervisors.
I didn’t respond late Thursday night to information about the tax proposal because I wanted to digest the information Saturday and Sunday and talk to voters about what they would support. I heard an overwhelming “no” for several reasons.
#1 The first sentence of the tax measure says: “Measure __ Sales tax is unrestricted general fund revenue, by this resolution the county intends to use such revenue for fire protection projects and water resistance.” The public does not like without restriction. “Intends” means little to voters because supervisors change over time. An advisory board is meaningless if it has no real power. The county has a history of forming advisory councils that have expressed the feeling that they have no real value. They seem to be more of a formality. Also in this sentence, it says “essential services”. For most people, this means whatever the Supervisors deem important.
#2 The supervisors made a promise to the library. An additional sales tax jeopardizes the library tax. You can say they don’t compete, but that’s not true. The reality is that voters can be completely discouraged by higher taxes during tough economic times. Is now really the best time to tax people more or provide relief?
#3 The PEOPLE filed signatures to put the library tax on the ballot. THE PEOPLE did not submit signatures for this proposed tax. It came from the government.
#4 When was the needs assessment done to decide the level of funding needed for each of these ideas? My constituents feel that the idea of throwing “fire funds” into an unrestricted ballot measure is a way to feed their fears. We heard no logical arguments presented regarding the needs and gaps of EVERY fire department. For example, which local authorities have already invested in their fire services with a special tax? How much tax? Any fire district would be happy to receive more tax money, but when is too much tax too much? We want a full plan of what the money would be spent on and know that all districts are already contributing similarly to support their local fire departments,
#5 My constituents don’t buy the water theory. Residents of the town of Willits already pay a high cost for water infrastructure. We have made the investment and are paying for it. Now you want us to pay again to help others who are unwilling or who have planned poorly? Why should we all pay for water in Potter Valley when those who live there pay so little for the water they currently use? Check the water prices. Maybe the first step should be to raise the rates there. There was talk of storage capacity at Willits. We believe this was added to include us. We have already allocated funds for another water storage tank. We are not fooled into thinking that this funding is really intended to help our community. We want to be good neighbours, but we want our neighbors to pay their fair share first, and then we can all contribute a second round.
#6 What’s in it for the County? Will any of these funds be used to subsidize current salaries as they take on additional administrative duties and thereby reduce the load on the general fund? Many are wary of the politics at play here for a special group. Why are supervisors tackling this mountain at a time when they should be focusing on bigger budget issues? Some don’t understand why county supervisors are pushing an issue that has so little support.
These are just a few of the arguments I and others have heard.
Jim Shields is the editor and publisher of the Mendocino County Observer, [email protected], the longtime district manager of the Laytonville County Water District, and is also chairman of the City Area Advisory Board of Laytonville. Listen to his radio show “This and That” every Saturday at noon on KPFN 105.1 FM, also broadcast live: http://www.kpfn.org