CO$T Urges NO Vote on San Rafael Measure R (Nov 3, 2020 ballot)
This additional ¼ cent 9-year sales tax hurts those who can afford it least. Because it’s a general tax, Measure R needs only a majority, not 2/3, approval and there are few constraints on how the money is spent. In effect, it fills a tiny bit of a pension hole that will keep getting bigger because pension return assumptions are unrealistic and salaries keep growing. This is a long-term issue that San Rafael Measure R can’t fix. The City must urgently address its pension problems, downsize headcount and compensation, and consolidate costly emergency services with other cities. They can’t tax their way out of this, but they will try.
- Measure R masquerades as fix to a budget squeeze caused by COVID-19. Why then does Measure R last 9 years and collect over 3x as much as the revenue shortfall? Look to pensions for the answer.
- Sales taxes are regressive, falling most heavily on families suffering in the COVID-19 economy.
- Prop 15, the November 2020 split roll initiative raising commercial property taxes, promises increased local government revenue. Prop 15 is ahead in the polls. If it passes, you’ll still be stuck paying the higher sales tax.
- Statewide measures on California’s November ballot, together with Measure R, would exacerbate our high cost of living and squeeze small businesses. Enough already.
- Measure R is tone deaf. Many San Rafael residents are unemployed or will be soon thanks to COVID-19. Small businesses are collapsing. Other Marin agencies showed they care, tabling annual tax/fee increases and nixing tax measures.
- If Measure R passes, the 9.25% sales tax will be Marin’s highest.
Vote NO on Measure R. San Rafael residents are downsizing their expenses to live within their means. San Rafael City leadership should do the same.
Learn More: Read CO$T’s Argument Against Measure R and Rebuttal published in the November 2020 Marin County Voter Education Guide.
Primary argument against Measure R:
Rebuttal to the argument in favor of Measure R:
Tam Union High School District Measure M – CO$T Voter Decision Guide
This $469 per parcel is a straight renewal of all parcel taxes supporting the Tam Union District (Redwood, Tamalpais, Drake, San Andreas and Tamiscal). It replaces the existing $16.8 million parcel tax, extending it 9 years with 3% annual escalators.
CO$T decided to neither endorse nor oppose Measure M. We oppose key features of this tax. But Tam Union faces a major downsizing if it doesn’t replace some or all of the revenue of the current parcel taxes expiring June 2022. How to vote? It’s your choice. Here’s what to consider:
Reasons You Might Vote for Measure M:
Significant cuts will be necessary if TUHSD doesn’t replace much of the current parcel tax revenue (comprising 17% of the district budget) by June 30, 2022.
Time is running short. If this tax fails TUHSD will likely try again. But when? One possibility is a special election in 2021, which CO$T would likely oppose because that’s expensive to run and generates a low turnout skewed to proponents. The other option is the March 2022 CA primary election, which is so close to the sunset of the current parcel tax that the District would have to prepare a detailed plan for layoffs that would occur if the tax measure fails.
Straight renewal. Measure M simply extends existing parcel taxes and escalators for 9 years. Citing expected enrollment declines, CO$T helped defeat proposed jumps in the parcel tax rate, including March 2020’s Measure B and preliminary plans to put TWO parcel tax measures on the Nov 2020 ballot.
Reasons You Might Vote Against Measure M:
It’s regressive. Under this flat parcel tax, each property pays the same whether it’s a mall or a studio condo. CO$T advocates a per square foot parcel tax sized to lower the burden on most homes while raising it on the largest commercial properties.
It grows 3% every year despite big enrollment declines over the 9 year tax (per district consultants).
Admin expense efficiencies should be considered. Marin has 19 school district administrative entities. Consolidation or shared services could trim taxpayers’ burden without harming students.
Inclusive approach needed. Taxpayer-voters aren’t just a cash register. The district must engage the whole community in a dialogue about tax affordability, district priorities and more inclusive decision making.
This “split roll” state-wide property tax initiative would repeal part of Prop. 13. A once in a generation overhaul of CA’s property tax code, prop 15 is a huge tax increase, potentially raising over $12 billion annually in new tax revenue. It does this by reassessing commercial properties to current market value. Prop 15 would raise taxes on a wide variety of businesses and could be especially crushing to small ones.
Prop 15 hurts businesses that own their buildings and also those that lease space (they’ll face higher rents or pay the higher property taxes outright under “triple net” lease agreements). Businesses will try to pass on the higher costs to consumers; if they can’t pass the cost to consumers, businesses, especially some ones, may collapse. Prop 15 is also widely viewed as a first step toward eroding or repealing prop 13’s homeowner protections. To hear the pro and con arguments from campaign leaders, watch the video of CO$T’s Zoom forum on Prop 15.
This is another big state-wide tax increase in disguise – potentially raising over $2 billion annually from CA homeowners and chipping away at homeowners’ property tax protections. Prop 19 is a second try at a previously rejected proposition intended to gin up home sales and real estate commissions. The ugly twist this time around: Prop 19 repeals 1986’s prop 58 (which voters overwhelmingly approved), allowing parents to transfer a home to their children without an increase in property tax. Prop 19’s superficial appeal is that it offers the ability of age 55+ homeowners to maintain their prop 13 base value while moving anywhere in the state up to three times. But this positive comes at the expense of a huge new tax on the next generation, which has already been repeatedly fleeced by CA tax policies.
If prop 19 passes, the prop 13 base value on an inherited home would soar to full market value. If the heir does not make the home his principal residence within 1 year. Often this is just not feasible. In other instances, the heir depends on renting out the home short or long term as a much-needed income source. Prop 19 will force the next generation to sell inherited homes, raising up to $2 billion in new taxes and robbing them of the family home and financial security.
Realtors should stop trying to improve their economics at taxpayers’ expense.
CO$T CANDIDATE ENDORSEMENTS – November 3, 2020 Election
CO$T is pleased to endorse for the November 3, 2020 election Dr. Paul da Silva for the College of Marin Board and Ms. Mandy Downing for the Tamalpais Union High School District Board. Both these candidates solicited our endorsement and provided extensive, thoughtful answers to our detailed questionnaire probing their views on topics likely to come before the board on which they hope to serve. We urge our supporters to vote for these exceptional candidates whom we believe can effect positive change at these two important educational districts.
The Coalition of Sensible Taxpayers endorses candidates for local elected office in the limited situations where we believe a particular candidate is especially well suited for the post and we are very familiar with the issues faced by the jurisdiction, district, or agency. Candidates seeking CO$T’s endorsement should contact us soon after filing papers to run for office.
CO$T Endorses Paul da Silva for College of Marin Board
CO$T endorses Dr. Paul da Silva for the College of Marin Board. Dr. da Silva is a recently retired biology professor. Since no current board members are educators or have faculty or other inside experience at the college, Dr. da Silva would bring to the board an important perspective and workable ideas for solving vexing problems.
Dr. da Silva’s careful habits as a scientist appear to carry over into his approach to the college’s problems generally, and he has budgeting experience as a former department chair. His 16-page response to COST’s questionnaire provided insightful critiques of current approaches and suggestions for improvement for academic programs, expenditures, and long-term priorities. He specifically identifies reducing large construction cost over-runs and use of outside consultants as important opportunities to make taxpayer money go further. In another community-friendly initiative, Dr. da Silva backs lower facility rental fee charges (e.g., meeting space) for low-budget groups that disseminate knowledge and information.
In answer to CO$T’s question, he spelled out his list of the college’s current challenges and opportunities, which we’ve summarized below:
- Educational Excellence. The college must maintain and enhance the quality of its learning experiences by providing a diverse curriculum and using the best personnel, facilities, equipment, supplies and methods.
- Economic Efficiency. The college must remember that because its overall purpose is education, all expenditures must be evaluated in terms of the educational benefits they provide.
- Enhance Social Equity on Campus.
- Enlightened Environmentalism. COM should work to solve environmental problems not only in its courses, but also in its facilities and operations.
Dr. da Silva’s careful approach and inside perspective should earn him a place on the College of Marin board.
CO$T Endorses Mandy Downing for Tamalpais Union High School District Board
CO$T endorses Mandy Downing for TUHSD board and urges voters to vote for her ONLY – what’s known as a “bullet vote” — even though two positions on the board are open for this election. A bullet approach amplifies your vote for Ms. Downing and increases her chances in a field that includes 2 incumbents and 3 challengers (who would normally split among them the votes of people who want change). In Mandy’s application for endorsement and conversations with CO$T Directors, she showed a real willingness to embrace new approaches to board decisions and district oversight. We believe the District would benefit from new blood.
Ms. Downing brings an energy to this campaign that is rare to see, and, moreover, she will be able to spend full time on behalf of the board when she is elected. She is a current parent yet appears to appreciate that the trustees on this board must represent a variety of members of the community, not just those on campus.
While Mandy and CO$T do not agree on all issues, we believe she is open to well-reasoned input and will not just rubber-stamp management preferences. Her questionnaire responses showed a pragmatic approach that will serve Tam Union well, such as:
- Mandy supports Measure M (the current flat parcel tax measure on the November ballot, which would extend for 9 years funding that currently comprises 17% of the district’s budget). But, if it fails, she is open to looking at a fairer per square foot parcel tax and says she would oppose using taxpayer money to hire a polling consultant (favoring instead a conversation with the larger community about what it would support). She believes in a balanced budget that does not depend on reserve spending and recognizes this may involve some hard decisions about spending priorities as well as looking for any additional revenue sources.
- Mandy is committed to scrutinizing the budget with an eye to maximizing the educational impact of available taxpayer dollars. Mandy advocates for Tam Union to define its priorities and align spending accordingly. She urges the District to look for opportunities for shared services and collaborations. Mandy would also like the board to be more active in pension reform at the District and State levels.
Vote for Change Candidates at MMWD:
Vote For Chris Hobbs and Mark Lubamersky
CO$T is endorsing Chris Hobbs for the MMWD Board in Division 5 (Belvedere, Tiburon, Strawberry, Corte Madera, and part of Larkspur) and Mark Lubamersky in Division 2 (San Rafael). They are not running as a slate but each sees the urgent need to change policies that contribute to skyrocketing water rates and wildfire risk.
Both Hobbs and Lubamersky are committed to much more aggressive fuel load reduction in the watershed. They also want to review the fairness of the recently enacted Capital Maintenance Fee (CMF), which resulted in a huge new meter-size based fee in 2019 (the legality of which CO$T contested in a legal complaint which has recently advanced to a class action filing). Both Lubamersky and Hobbs call for much better transparency and prudent fiscal management with the rate payers in focus. Neither will participate in the gold-plated healthcare package that current board members enjoy, which is a costly perk that’s highly unusual for Marin’s elected officials. Both are open to enacting term limits at the board, which currently has several extremely long serving members.
Chris Hobbs brings to the board superb financial expertise, a professional skill that distinguishes him relative to current directors. Mark Lubamersky contributes a commitment to fairly representing the interests of the broad community as demonstrated in prior San Rafael public service roles. Learn more about Chris Hobbs here and Mark Lubamersky here.