The Press Democrat's recent editorial ("Timing is wrong for local sales tax hikes," Oct. 13) in opposition to Sebastopol's Measure Y is wrong on many counts, most fundamentally the basic facts. As noted in its correction, the PD incorrectly identified the statewide sales tax rate increase proposed in Proposition 30, which is in fact a quarter percent increase.
If both Measure Y and Proposition 30 pass, Sebastopol's cumulative sales tax rate will be 9 percent, a quarter-percent less than what Sebastopol shoppers were paying just over a year ago, before the sunsetting of the state's supplemental sales tax. Sebastopol's Measure Y will cost an average family of four approximately $4 a month.
So what will this $4 for a family of four buy?
It is local government, in this case the city of Sebastopol, that delivers the most basic and important services that effect our lives every day. The city of Sebastopol maintains our street and sewers, delivers water to our taps, supports a police department that ensures our safety and provides a fire department that not only puts out fires but also delivers an extremely rapid response emergency medical team. Additionally, our public works department maintains our parks; our building department ensures that our businesses and homes are safe for habitation, and our planning department ensures that development is appropriate and will not further clog our streets.
The Press Democrat tells us that the timing is wrong to ask Sebastopol voters to support both streets that are drivable and schools that are viable. If that $4 a month for a family too much to pay to guarantee that our basic city services continue to be viable? When would be a better time?
Thanks to the shenanigans on Wall Street that caused a global economic mess, as well as the gridlock in Sacramento, local government is getting the short end to the stick. We should work to fix these underlying problems. But, in the meantime, there are lives that need saving, schools that need funding, roads that need paving and fires that must be doused.
If we were to grow our taxable retail sales into raising the additional $1 million that the city needs rather than raise our sales tax rate, we would need to increase taxable retail sales in Sebastopol by $100 millions, nearly double our existing sales. What would we buy. Where would we park?
The city of Sebastopol has already cut its services to the bone. Our city staff has made many concessions. Their hours have been cut, and they are contributing significantly to their pensions. They are in the lower end of the pay spectrum compared to other public employees in the county.
Contrary to The Press Democrat's assertion, Sebastopol does not have unfunded pension liabilities. Sebastopol, like other cities, has seen its pension liabilities balloon. The city has and will continue to pay its pension liabilities. All of our pension liabilities are funded.
The PD editorial questions the timing of Measure Y and the ability of some people to pay the cumulative taxes from all the measures on the ballot. In Sebastopol, seniors on fixed incomes may have difficulty paying school parcel taxes. However, they can get an exemption from paying these taxes if they need it. They should vote in favor of school taxes knowing that an exemption is available to them if needed.