October 4, 2023

How did Pleasanton get right here?

That was one query posed by a resident throughout a Metropolis Council assembly Tuesday when the panel gave metropolis workers the inexperienced mild to discover putting a potential tax measure on a poll subsequent 12 months.

Metropolis officers will subsequent take the temperature of the group by public opinion polls and different informational campaigns to find out what sort of measure — native gross sales tax, resort tax or bond, amongst potential income choices — could also be profitable with voters.

Town is finding out a tax or bond measure because it stares down projections that present the town in coming years spending extra money than it takes in.

“Why are we on this state of affairs?” Mayor Karla Brown mentioned on the assembly. “One in all them is COVID.”

Pleasanton misplaced $11 million in resort tax income over the past three years of the coronavirus pandemic, Brown mentioned, and the trade has been sluggish to recuperate to pre-pandemic ranges.

Gross sales tax income has not been excessive sufficient to satisfy the town’s wants, both, Brown mentioned.

“If you happen to’ve been by the mall not too long ago, you recognize the mall could be very sluggish, and it has not introduced within the gross sales tax that we anticipated,” the mayor mentioned. “Costco has not come on-line. It’s approach delayed for a lot of causes; the town shouldn’t be considered one of them, however that was estimated no less than $1 million a 12 months in gross sales tax income.”

Officers additionally pointed to uncared for metropolis infrastructure — similar to water pipes in want of restore or alternative — rising prices of products, companies and salaries; and pension obligations that aren’t anticipated to stabilize till about 2031 as causes the town is taking a look at potential new income sources, payment will increase for metropolis companies and applications, and methods to chop prices.

“Wage financial savings and wet day fund — all these issues are getting tighter and tighter and dwindling,” Metropolis Supervisor Gerry Beaudin mentioned on the assembly. “Our purpose right here is to determine a brand new solution to pay for recognized wants.”

The exploration of a income measure — which may seem on the November 2024 poll — comes as the town is mired in bitter contract negotiations with the Pleasanton Police Officers Affiliation, which has declared an deadlock in negotiations because it seeks pay raises and retention bonuses for officers. It additionally comes as the town is proposing elevating water charges considerably, beginning with a potential 30% improve later this 12 months. Mayor Brown famous efforts to deal with metropolis wells discovered to be contaminated with PFAS — or eternally chemical compounds — may price $35 million to $50 million.

Town’s normal fund finances totals about $150 million, in response to metropolis finances paperwork. It funds metropolis companies similar to workers payroll, police, fireplace, recreation, and repairs and upkeep, amongst different companies. Personnel prices account for the overwhelming majority of normal fund spending.

Property taxes herald almost 60% of the town’s normal fund income. Gross sales tax is the following highest funding supply, coming in at about 17%.

Whereas Pleasanton has not earlier than tried to determine an area gross sales tax to bolster its normal fund, many cities within the area have. Voters final November in Walnut Creek, for instance, permitted Measure O, a half-cent normal gross sales tax. And in Union Metropolis, voters renewed a half-cent gross sales tax that metropolis officers mentioned advantages 911 operations, firefighting companies and police patrols and different metropolis companies. Hayward and San Leandro even have instituted native gross sales taxes.

Bonnie Moss of the political technique and communications agency CliffordMoss, which has been employed by the town to investigate income choices, mentioned billing a gross sales tax measure as benefiting public security companies is “actually very talked-about with voters.”

Taxpayer watchdogs notice that there are two sorts of native gross sales tax initiatives. Marcus Crawley of the Alameda County Taxpayers Affiliation mentioned a normal gross sales tax requires solely a easy majority to be permitted, and the income gained could be spent on the Metropolis Council’s discretion. A particular gross sales tax requires two-thirds voter approval and should determine particular functions for the cash raised.

Crawley mentioned governments attempt to make normal tax proposals appear particular, and particular tax proposals obscure sufficient so the added income could be spent extra broadly.

“Usually, the voters are bamboozled into voting towards their greatest pursuits as a result of the gimmicks are so attractive and the brand new tax campaigns are properly funded,” he mentioned.

The Pleasanton Metropolis Council has not but selected whether or not it should place a income measure earlier than voters.

On the council’s assembly, Vice Mayor Jack Balch famous the town’s bills are rising quicker than its revenues, and he mentioned he’s heard from constituents who consider the council has been “a bit of bit off on the priorities that we have now set.”

He mentioned he’s viewing a possible poll measure in that mild.

“I’m involved that we might want to rebuild belief with our group earlier than we are able to doubtlessly see this as a hit,” Balch mentioned. “It doesn’t imply it’s not possible. It simply means we could have a little bit of water we have to carry to rebuild that belief.”