Coalition of Sensible Taxpayers’ 2019 Fall Forum
“Dollars and Sense”
…Is Another Tax Increase Cycle on the Horizon?
Featuring Guest Speaker:
Preeminent California Political Watchdog Journalist
Dan Walters of CalMatters
CO$T WINS CA TAXPAYER ADVOCACY AWARD
Breaking News! CO$T has been named Taxpayer Organization of the Year by California’s leading state-wide taxpayer advocacy group, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers’ Association.
HJTA cites CO$T’s unique nonpartisan coalition as an innovative approach to taxpayer advocacy in California. HJTA adds that CO$T’s leadership team is renowned for its financial expertise and deep-dive research.
Why this matters: HJTA’s recognition further bolsters CO$T’s effectiveness as a voice for Marin’s taxpayer-voters. Local jurisdictions and media increasingly rely on CO$T’s financial research, insights, oversight, and guidance.
Help us build on this good news! YOUR financial contribution fuels our activities: community meetings, renowned guest speakers, website, informational alerts, advocacy, campaign assistance, marketing, research, administration, and more.
Donate to CO$T via PayPal link or mail a check to Coalition of Sensible Taxpayers, P.O. Box 253, Kentfield, CA 94914. We appreciate these unrestricted donations that can fund our full range of activities, including political advocacy.
Contribute stock or donor-directed fund grants to our tax-deductible CO$T Foundation (supports research and education). The CO$T Foundation is already on the approved list of Marin Community Foundation and Vanguard. For more info, contact us
Numbers matter. Help ours grow!
Urge friends, neighbors, and co-workers to sign up for CO$T’s informative alerts. There’s strength in numbers!
Tell your friends about us. Give a personal endorsement of the benefits of joining CO$T. It’s free! Contributions welcome.
Keep Reading! Learn What We’ve Accomplished & What comes Next.
COST is almost two years old! CO$T’s achievements to date have built our renown, opening the door to greater advocacy clout and public service as Marin Taxpayers’ Voice.
We’re hosting highly popular public events.
In 2019, we’ll host two or more community events:
A CO$T Town Hall Gathering to celebrate our successes, share our future plans, and invite community help.
One or two more in our popular CO$T Forum series. Preeminent guest speakers analyze hot-button issues facing taxpayer-voters.
CO$T’s educational public meetings bring attention to the impact on school funding, public services and taxes/fees resulting from underfunded pensions and dysfunctional fiscal policy. Our CO$T Forum series (with professional event videos posted to our website) has featured notable guest speakers:
David Crane – Govern for California President
Joe Nation – Stanford Pension Tracker Project President
Jon Coupal – Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association President
We’re Bird-Dogging Fee Increases on Essential Services, such as Marin Municipal Water District rates:
Researched and publicized exceptionally high expenses passed through to MMWD ratepayers including $183,000 average full-time employee compensation and the extraordinary part-time Board Director perk of $21,500 yearly health care insurance.
Led a ratepayer protest that achieved a rollback of a 7% water rate hike slated for 2018.
Continue to press for greater accountability to ratepayers.
We’re Working for Good Priorities and Fiscal Solvency at Tam Union High School District (Tam, Redwood, Drake)
CO$T led a successful effort to get the district to drop contemplated plans for a $300 million bond measure for new facilities — and instead urgently prioritize eliminating operating deficits. We supported a short-term parcel tax, Measure J, which coupled with cost cuts, should help restore fiscal solvency.
We continue to press for actions that will ensure long-term financial and educational stability. We urge the district convene a small fiscal advisory panel of independent financial experts and dedicate a portion of Measure J revenues to boost reserves.
We’re a Voice for Transparency, Fiscal Responsibility and Appropriate Process: San Geronimo Golf course collaboration
CO$T sounded the alarm about increased fire risk and Marin County’s misuse of process and county funds in its planned golf course purchase.
We assisted San Geronimo Advocates in petition signature gathering for a ballot initiative to require a popular vote prior to any change in the golf course’s land use designation.
Now that the county has terminated plans to spend taxpayer funds for golf course purchase, we continue to advocate against any land use designation change by the county without a process that’s legal, transparent, and inclusive.
We’re Building an Organization for Long-term Impact
Strength in numbers – we now have nearly 1300 readers of our regular informational eblast alerts. Decision-makers pay attention to our numerical clout. Sign up here.
IRS approved CO$T as a 501(c)4 tax-exempt social welfare entity that can engage in political advocacy. The “donate” button on the COSTMarin.org website attracts contributions from many supporters.
IRS approved the CO$T Foundation as a 501(c)3 tax-exempt entity focusing on research and education. The Foundation is supported by tax-deductible contributions from individuals and donor advised funds. Learn more here.
Improved outreach: we are beefing up website, social media, and marketing
Bolstering board, project committees, and vital functions with quality volunteers. To explore how you can help email
CO$T ensures Marin taxpayers’ concerns are heard:
Local media regularly quote our expert insights in their news coverage and publishes our op/ed pieces on matters of concern to taxpayer-voters
CO$T joins with other state and regional groups opposing bills and ballot measures adverse to Marin taxpayers’ interests.
We partner with other local citizen groups on issues affecting Marin taxpayer-voters.
We’re Building relationships and impact with local jurisdictions. Jurisdictions are now soliciting CO$T’s early input on contemplated tax, fee, and spending proposals. This cooperative approach results in proposals that are more fair, transparent, and fiscally responsible.
CO$T is spearheading efforts for more equitable tax and fee structures such as:
Alternative parcel taxes based on number of residential units or building square footage. This is fairer than a tax that is the same for a mansion or a hut.
Short tax/fee duration, aligned with concrete use. CO$T is working to ensure new taxes don’t go on past the identifiable use/need.
CO$T aggressively fights unfair tax/fee practices, including:
Special off-cycle elections designed to limit voter turnout for controversial tax measures
Language intended to mislead taxpayer-voters about factors prompting tax/fee hikes, what they’ll be used for and how much they will cost.
We sunlight excessive and/or hidden fees that you don’t get to vote on: Franchise fees (on refuse, cable, and utilities), water, and sewer rates.
Learning from Experience
While we haven’t won every contest, we’re quickly gaining valuable experience and amassing skills we can profitably put to future use.
Transportation Authority of Marin – CO$T authored the ballot argument against the 2018 30 year transportation sales tax Measure AA: it’s too long and lacks a clear plan. While the measure passed, we had important accomplishements:
Formed unique trans-partisan alliance with a range of citizen activists. This could be an effective model for future activities.
Amplified message: We’ve gotten experience with lawn signs, social media boosts and online ads.
Had a dry run for future contests…. Our Measure AA experience taught us about which buttons to push, what we need to do better, what resources to recruit.
Kentfield, Lagunitas, and Dixie school parcel tax measures – These also passed over our objections. But we’re successfully getting the word out that districts should consider fairer alternative parcel tax structures…. AND that we will oppose any off-cycle special election tax measure.
What’s ahead for 2019 and beyond:
Potential ground-breaking initiative: We’re working collaboratively with other concerned groups, across ideological lines, to seek sustainable solutions to the pension crowd-out problem.
Building project: We’re beefing up CO$T’s leadership, infrastructure, supporter base, and strategies for 2020 (elections & tax measures now cluster in even years).
Our CO$T Foundation 501(c)3 will do more deep dive research and public events (including a membership gathering). This is our power alley.
Our CO$T 501(c)4 will be fundraising to fill coffers for 2020 campaigns… and building our people and skill sets for more effective political campaigns.
We’ll continue to grow our reputation as credible and sensible voice for taxpayers and fees-payers
And Finally – Expanding our Marin Public Service Activities
Continue to provide taxpayer representatives to oversight committees of several Marin districts
Host very well trafficked booth at Marin Senior Fair.
Public speaking on tax/fee payer issues – Our 2018 Marin Coalition talk was well received. We’re now reaching out to other civic groups.
Educate eligible seniors, disabled and low income taxpayers about available local tax exemptions.
Educate school children about elections. 2018 visit to Cascade Canyon elementary school was a fun, rewarding first outing.
Inform public employees about union opt-out pursuant to 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision.
CO$T aims to:
1. Keep local taxes and fees on housing and basic services affordable.
2. Encourage officials to prioritize spending on the uses most important to taxpayers.
3. Improve transparency and fiscal responsibility at local agencies and districts.
4. Educate taxpayers about the cost and use of their local taxes and fees.
5. Urge that tax measures be fair, equitable, and approved by those who will be paying.
CO$T’s activities include:
1. Host non-partisan public meetings about local tax policies and the options.
2. Inform voters about proposed new and renewed taxes and fees.
3. Research whether new taxes and fees are necessary and how they will be used.
4. Investigate cost-effective alternatives to higher taxes and fees.
5. Guide local officials on which tax and spending proposals voters would favor.
6. Serve as Taxpayer Representative on district Citizen Oversight Committees.
CO$T is an all-volunteer organization led by our Board of Directors. Our Advisory Group gives periodic guidance and assistance on projects. We email alerts on issues and developments to followers who sign up to receive our communications.