Councilman Durant Gives It a Shot... - No Pleasant Hill Tax - the "No on Measure T" campaign
So the City Council must have lots of free time on their hands, as they continue to write editorials supporting Measure T. This time it is David Durant, who's "Your Turn" editorial was printed in this weekends Contra Costa Times. We analyze it here: (our comments are in black)

Your Turn: Measure T will protect Pleasant Hill
By David Durant
Guest Commentary

Posted: 10/16/2010 12:01:00 AM PDT

Pleasant Hill's Measure T offers voters a simple but important choice. Do we want to take matters into our own hands and ensure that we continue to live in a safe community with rapid emergency response, a strong police force, well-maintained roads and quality services? Or will we stand by while Sacramento take-aways and a slow economy erode funds available for vital services?

Each year the state takes away our funding -- $2 million this year alone from our Redevelopment Agency and general fund combined.

...according to the City Manager in response to a question about the budget, the $2 million state take-away was ONLY from redevelopment funds, and did not take anything from the General Fund.

Pleasant Hill only receives 6 cents from every dollar of property taxes -- half of what most cities receive. And, the recession has hit Pleasant Hill hard. Pleasant Hill's limited local revenue sources have declined for three years.

...we argue that the recession has hit EVERYONE hard, THAT'S THE POINT!!! PEOPLE CAN'T AFFORD MORE TAXES!

To challenge Measure T, some pick at elements of city employee benefit packages or take budget items out of context. But, your city leadership has made strong efforts to be prudent and to operate in a cost-effective way.
...if discovering and talking about the fact that City employees pay NOTHING towards their retirement when almost everyone in the public sector pays a majority to fund their retirement is "picking at" benefits packages, then he's right. "Taking budget items out of context" is in reference to our pointing out that despite crying broke, the City still offers up money to lend for installing solar panels. Although we all know these items are paid for out of redevelopment money (of which $2 million was taken back by the State- so are we not concerned about that?) we suggest it is BAD FORM to complain that you don't have enough money to protect Grandma and fill pot holes, and then turn around to loan money for SOLAR PANELS!!!.....jeez, you can't make this stuff up.....  

Our city doesn't borrow money to make ends meet. It saved and built up healthy reserves. For years, Pleasant Hill has carefully cut expenses and frozen positions.

For example, city staff positions were cut by 20 percent. But, we protected vital services (more than 50 percent of Pleasant Hill's budget goes to police protection). We prudently drew down reserves. is an interesting statement that deserves a moment of scrutiny. "We prudently drew down reserves"...when exactly did that happen? After reviewing budget records since 1997, the City's reserve has never been larger, and stands today at $10.4 million. That is $2 million ABOVE the minimum reserve set by the Council of $8.3 million. As far as we can tell, the city has not been "drawing down reserves", but has been quietly building them up. But we would say that now IS the time to draw on the reserve, rather than raise taxes. 

Yes, we must trim expenses more and have our employees bear far more of the cost of their health care and pensions.

But, cost-cutting alone is not the solution.
...well in reality, if city employees paid thier "employee part" of their retirement, it has been determined that it would make up for the projected deficits, saving as much money as would be raised by the new tax. So we would say that, yes, that alone IS the solution, if the solution is to balance the budget.

Measure T seeks modest revenue that provides stable funding that cannot be taken away by Sacramento. Measure T would expand Pleasant Hill's existing utility users tax (UUT) (which has not been updated since 1983)
...actually the tax was modified in 2006 to include cell phone service...

and increase the rate to 1.5 percent (the second lowest rate for cities in the Bay Area that have a UUT). For a household with utility bills of $1,000 per month (for things like water, PG&E, sewer, telephone and cable), that means a total UUT cost of about 49 cents per day. This small investment does not add or enhance services; but it protects vital services.
Measure T provides exemptions for seniors and low-income residents -- those who generally can least afford even small increases. It ensures accountability by requiring mandatory financial audits and reports to the public. At any time, the City Council can vote to lower the UUT again when the revenue is no longer needed. And, you have my word that I will do so.

We have a safe community with good schools and an outstanding quality of life. Do you want to keep police response times low? Do you want to keep our well-maintained streets and roads? Do you want our library to remain a safe harbor for children after school? If you answer yes to any of these, please vote yes on Measure T.

Of course we all want those things...we just differ on how to provide them. Our arguement is that the Council do everything it can on the expense side, by reducing employee benefit payments, and drawing on the reserve specifically put in place for times like these, to address budget shortfalls.

Leave a Reply.