Pinole’s Measure S – Opposition

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The CCT is opposing the Pinole Sales tax measure.
The Contra Costa Tax Payer’s Association has pointed put that this sales tax increase does not have a sunset date (therefore it is indefinite and permanent) and there is no oversight committee to review the expenditure of these funds.

Pinole’s current sales tax is 9%.
If the new tax measure passes Pinole’s sales tax rate will be 9.5%.
That would match the current sales tax rate in El Cerrito.

Sales Tax Rates in neighboring communities
The State Sales Tax is 7.5%.

El Cerrito 9.5%

Kensington 8.5%

Rodeo 8.5%

Hercules 9%

San Pablo 9%

Richmond 9%

Pinole 9%

Population by City, per Census (as noted):

El Cerrito
(2012) 24,048

Kensington
(2010) 5,077

Rodeo
(2010) 8,679

Hercules
(2012) 24,660

San Pablo
(2012) 29,720

Richmond
(2012) 106,516

Pinole (2012) 18,729

Will you pay more to live in Pinole?

Can the City of Pinole, considering its limited growth potential, continue to consider itself a Full Service City?
Will parcel taxes, sales tax increases and special assessments be the only source of sustainable revenue the city can rely on to maintain the Full Service City designation with a stagnant population of less than 20,000?

Currently the City has established Enterprise Funds to support some of the services previously considered part of a full-service city designation. Among them, Parks and Rec, which includes the Senior Center and Pinole Cable TV.
These departments are now struggling to get by. The loss of revenue as well as the loss of Redevelopment Funds has dictated new strategies for budgeting.

It seems likely that services currently being offered through fund raising activities will need general fund support via new fees, taxes or assessments.
The same logic applies to the funding of Police, Fire and Public Works. Without development or growth (yes Pinole can always rely on its business to keep it afloat) how long before taxpayers are asked to pay more for basic services?

Is Pinole enamored with its Full Service City title?
Are taxpayers willing to accept more taxes, fees, and assessments in order to maintain the Full Service City status?
Data derived from the League of California Cities:
http://www.californiacityfinance.com/FinancePrimer05.pdf

City Responsibilities Differ:
Comparing revenues and expenditures of different cities can be difficult because cities vary according to the needs of their constituents and the nature of the local economy, as well as the service and financial responsibilities of the city.
Less than 25 percent of California cities are full service cities, responsible for funding all of the major city general fund-supported services such as police, fire, library, parks and recreation and planning.
In about three out of 10 California communities, a special district provides fire services with property tax revenue that would otherwise go to the city.
In six out of 10 cities, library services are provided and funded by another public agency.
On the revenue side, these differences in financial responsibility among cities are generally reflected in the allocation of property tax revenue.
Other city tax rates and allocations are unrelated to service responsibility.

Trends in California City Finance
The following list summarizes trends in California city finance.

  • State and federal aid to California cities is declining, down from 21 percent of a city’s budget in 1974–75 to 10 percent today.
  • The sales tax base is declining, due to a shift toward a service-oriented economy and increasing Internet and catalog retail sales.
  • Limitations on taxes and fees that cities can impose are driven by
    Prop.
    13, Prop. 218 and other state laws.
  • State population growth is higher in cities.
  • Cities must respond to citizens’ demand for a greater array of services that bring with them additional costs and new challenges (high tech, cable, transit, etc.).
  • Public safety spending is up.
  • Infrastructure improvements and maintenance are lagging.

Take the Poll:

 

Pinole’s New Measure S – A Discretionary Tax – For or Against ?

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firefighter-gear

The November election is on November 4, 2014. Approximately 25 days away.
The City Council race is not really much of a race as only the incumbents are on the ballot.
But Pinole taxpayers will be considering, Measure S (Measure S part 2) an increase to the current sales tax in Pinole from 9% to 9.5%.
This measure requires only a majority to pass as the tax is not specific but discretionary.
Which means that the voter must believe that the City of Pinole is being run efficiently, effectively and can be trusted to spend these new revenues for the purposes stated.
Councilmember Long stated that although the Council can not dedicate Measure S funds to specific expenses, that they can commit to shoring up specific areas such as Police, Fire and Public Works.
If you look around our city you can see the effect the loss of Redevelopment Funds has had on the City.
Couple the loss of Redevelopment Funds, the economic recession and the increasing costs of services and it is apparent that our City has many fiscal challenges.
The community has always supported its Public Safety and the maintenance of our streets, roads and parks is important.
However, the opposition to this increase to the sales tax is not supportive of the way our city has handled its relationship with our Fire Fighters.It is unhappy with the way some services they have long enjoyed and counted on as the reason for purchasing homes and raising families have been cut or eliminated and are being kept alive by volunteers.
Will Measure S.2 fix these problems?
Will Measure S.2 restore these services?
Will Measure S.2 give the taxpayer what they say they are committed to, but are not legally responsible to do?

At a recent City Council meeting a proponent of the increased tax explained how costs have gone up. Yes in life everything goes up, rarely do costs go down. The two hot dogs  with mustard and sauerkraut in the fifties in New York although a graphic image don’t address the questions being raised in this community about the proposed increase.

Those who oppose Measure S.2 point to the discord between the Fire Fighters and the City. They point to the uncertain future of Fire Fighters in Pinole and the doubt that new recruits have about working for this City.
They point to administrative staffing costs for a city this size.
The truth is that Measure S.2 is likely to pass, but it is not because taxpayers have faith in their elected officials, but rather because they want to have the critical services they pay taxes for.
If measure S.2 passes taxpayers are trusting that our elected officials are truly committed to using these new revenues for the services they say the taxes are for.
Measure S.2 is more about trusting our elected officials to do the right thing, to keep their word and to hold the line when it comes to staffing in areas other than Public Safety.

 

The future of the Pinole Fire Department has been the subject of heated debate over the last five years.
Currently all the unions in Pinole have reached contract agreements with the City, with the only exception being the Pinole Fire Department.
What is preventing the Fire Fighters Union from reaching agreement with the City of Pinole? The Police have reached agreement on a new contract, yet the Fire Fighters have not.
Sources tell me that the City is holding things up because of the pending PERB lawsuit and using that as leverage in the negotiations.

But, what do the citizens and taxpayers of Pinole want?
The reality is the Pinole taxpayer will foot the bill and bear the burden of the decision(s) made by  our City officials.

Is the Pinole taxpayer willing to pay more for their Pinole Police and Fire Departments?
Pinole taxpayers have always said “yes” to that question. Measure S was passed because of that. The Pinole taxpayer has been willing to pay for the things they want and feel constitute the quality of life in Pinole. This is evidenced by the extension of the Utility Users tax in 2012 which was to help our city get back on track.

Pinole taxpayers have always expressed a tremendous amount of pride in their Police and Fire departments. Pinole is a blue collar community with a strong sense of American tradition and pride.
There is little controversy regarding the need for maintaining Pinole Police services.
But recently questions regarding Fire Services and service models have been raised and standards challenged. Pensions and overtime for all public employees have come under close scrutiny.
Scrutiny and criticism is not surprising since Public Safety accounts for the greatest portion of most city budgets.

With a population of 19,000 and little room for more development or growth is it realistic for Pinole to maintain its own Fire and Police Departments?
Does this city have the revenue to sustain its “Full Service City” identity?

Will an increase to the current sales tax by 1/2% allow the City to maintain its own Police and Fire Fighter Departments in the long term?

Keep in mind that just as Measure S was a general purpose tax and can be used at the Council’s discretion, any new sales tax revenue will also be a general purpose tax to be used at the discretion of the City.
It will really come down to how much taxpayers trust our City government and elected officials.

Will the 1/2% be added to the existing Measure S Fund to bolster Public Safety and Public Works?
Will the revenue from an increase in our sales tax be earmarked for the areas of the budget taxpayers care most about?
Today’s Poll asked for your feedback.
Should the City take a long term approach and enter into contract with another city or perhaps regionalize this service?
Do the taxpayers want Pinole public safety at any cost?
Does the taxpayer want public safety at a reasonable cost?

Should Pinole Have Its Own Fire Dept?