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Hercules Council Calls Special Meeting to Talk 'Revenue Generation'

The Hercules City Council will meet Tuesday, Jan. 29.

Last year, the Hercules City Council declared a fiscal emergency and voters subsequently approved both a sales tax increase and the sale of the city's municipal utility. 

Next week, the council will meet to discuss additional ways to make money.

The Hercules City Council will hold a special meeting Tuesday, with the main item being a discussion on "revenue generation ideas."

The council was scheduled to discuss the item at its meeting this week, but didn't get to the item until after 11 p.m. and opted to push it back to get more public input.

Consultant Catherine Lew spoke to possible ballot measures at last week's meeting, noting that if the council plans to try for another tax, it would have to act by March to get it on a June ballot.

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Hercules City Council special meeting
6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 29
City Council Chambers, 111 Civic Dr. 

Phil Simmons January 27, 2013 at 03:24 AM
Susan, There are 5 bonds for the school district. West CC Unif 98 WCC Unif 2000 WCCUSD 2002 WCC Unif 2005 WCCUSD 2010 All of these are Ad Volrem based on % of property value There are 2 Special Assessments WCCUSD Parcel Tax WCCUSD Assessment The Assessment is a fixed rate per parcel. Even a multifamily home pays the same. The other Parcel tax does vary. It is perhaps based on sq/ft but if so it is the only one out of 7, and the only one out of a total of 21 taxes over and above the basic property tax. 22 altogether, count um, seven bonds and tax assessments for WCC USD of one type or another. Add to that the MOSQUITO tax, the sewer tax, storm drain tax, 3 health provider taxes, eastbay trail tax, eastbay park tax, 2 community college taxes, bart tax, fire tax, lighting and landscape tax. and some tax called 83-2 Z 10 tax, whatever the heck that is. Anybody out there that thinks that Prop 13 is somehow protecting you from property tax increases is kidding themselves. Prop 13 has paved the way for uncontrolled taxes of all kinds. Anyone that thinks otherwise just does not understand what is going on. Tolstoy'd
Phil Simmons January 27, 2013 at 03:24 AM
The real point is that they are all regressive taxes. Another point is that the Hercules tax effort for June will be regressive and will be a fixed amount. And another point is ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. I will not vote for another WCC USD tax of any kind and will not vote of a Hercules tax of any kind until I see cuts in the budget, a SINCERE effort to develop the city following smart growth objectives, and a full review of future tax potential from increased sales tax already in place and the increase property assessments that are on their way. Hows that for not lecturing you ( - :
Giorgio C. January 27, 2013 at 04:24 AM
Phil, How much of your viewpoint is shaped by your situation, that you have retired at the age 60? Often, people retire at a later age, and then downsize after their kids have moved out, etc. Prop 13 can only do so much to protect you as you have pointed out. Would you say that you represent a group of people who, as a result of being on a fixed income, are being hurt even more by these taxes than others?
Toni Leance January 27, 2013 at 04:24 AM
My guess is accounting is top heavy, why can't we share the city attorney with one of our neighbor towns. Do we need both a city manager and a deputy city manager? Can we really afford a city police force or can we go with the county or combine like we do the fire department? I think Warmerdam was doing all the work for Duran that is why at the last meeting it was clear he wasn't up to speed on anything! Maybe we can get by with a part time city manager? Time to look long and hard at every MANAGMENT position and see if we can get the same for less. More workers less MANAGMENT what and who the hell are they managing anyway? Each other ?
Susan D.Keeffe January 27, 2013 at 10:37 AM
Phil, I fully understand all the various fees and assessments on my tax bill and I am actually quite able to read these for myself. Not being able to deduct these this year will be painful..I suppose listing them might be interesting information for renters who do not see the assessments. I was, however, only making a minor point specifically about one of them - parcel taxes which is why I specifically chose not to mention all the other assessments which were not pertinent to my comment but thanks anyway for listing them all and letting the readers know what is on their tax bills in case they didn't know. I agree we pay too many taxes and we have Prop 13 to thank for this situation.
Susan D.Keeffe January 27, 2013 at 10:38 AM
Toni, I also got that impression about the CM from the last meeting particularly as it related to his handling of the garbage rate negotiations.
Susan D.Keeffe January 27, 2013 at 10:44 AM
Giorgio, I would think everyone would be concerned about all the taxes we pay whether retired, fully employed, under employed or out of work. It is my impression many folks have simply had enough and want some proof of fiscal competence before voting for more. I think our community has been very supportive in approving so many tax increases in recent years but at some point, enough is enough.
Giorgio C. January 27, 2013 at 03:55 PM
Susan, In order to know what our options are, I think we need to consider the make-up of our city. Who is unemployed? Who is retired on a fixed income? Who has a home under water? Who has a little more to give, if willing, for the cause? Enough is enough, but we have also been trying to avoid bankruptcy. Yes, I want answers about how every dollar is being spent. There should not be difficulty in gaining access to org charts. I may be mistaken, but it looks like the City Clerk's Office has increased in size, but without documentation such as quarterly org charts, I can't tell if this government is shrinking or growing. Regarding the school situation, we've got a serious problem, we being parents of current and future district enrollees. Susan, you have your retirement and medical benefits from the WCCUSD, yes? You earned them and deserve them. I praise you for your constructive comments regarding a recent incident at one of our schools. You truly care for our kids and I apologize for ever doubting you. And now, as a parent, I see a school district that cannot or will not give our new teachers what they are worth. Mr. Ramsey never should have went for another bond measure. In my opinion, he should have done a better job at presenting the case for a parcel tax increase. We will now have 2 new taxes that do not address the full problem and few in Hercules will want to give more. So it appears now's the time to amend Prop 13?
Susan D.Keeffe January 27, 2013 at 05:14 PM
Giorgio, I agree with you on all points. I'm glad there are still parents who are interested, active and involved. Your voices are needed, Teachers need support in an increasingly difficult environment. Parental participation at their child's school can make a significant difference.
Phil Simmons January 27, 2013 at 05:28 PM
Giorgio, My position was the same before I was retired. Plus, we are not on a fixed income even though I am retired. I don't think I represent many in CA about this. Most folks that have lived in CA for a long time and have been in their homes for a long time believe that Prop 13 protects them. They are wrong. The tax structure proves it. Not only are there all manner of workarounds for Prop13 that cause property taxes to go up anyway but the base line structure of Prop 13 has caused the schools to have to fight for bond measures and has caused cities and counties to be caught in constant fights for more tax increases. Is is quite simple to see that Prop 13 has caused a very dysfunctional system. Top that of with the fact that Prop 13 also creates a supply problem with housing and contributes to the sharp price increases that eventually end badly with sharp decreases. CA is highly unstable and Prop 13 is a big part of that problem. Many other States have far more stable tax systems and far more stable home values.
Phil Simmons January 27, 2013 at 05:44 PM
Susan, My main reason for presenting this info to you was not for your sake. I could do that face to face any time. It was to provide this info to all the other readers and to make a point about the tax structure we have here in Hercules. My comments were support statements for Douglass Bright when he ask about progressive taxes. My comments were also to help shape the debate that is about to happen about tax measures. Everyone should be very aware that we will have one or two new taxes placed on the June ballot. And we will have new taxes if people don't wake up ans see what is coming. There will be 2 increases on our trash pick up very soon. We will see a UUT tax or a Parcel Tax to vote on in June, possible both. We already have Measure O increases from last June. We already have a State wide sales tax increase in place for this year from the Nov election. We will see increase property tax due to rising property values. We most likely will see another bond measure for Doctors Medical and maybe the WCCSUD next Nov, if not sooner. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH
Giorgio C. January 27, 2013 at 06:09 PM
Thanks, Susan. Regarding parental participation, the new Ohlone principal is not doing her part to allow concerned folks such as myself to get involved. My daughter will be attending her school. I make donations to the Ohlone PTA and attend board, CBOC and CBAC meetings. I have twice asked her if I can observe the Ohlone school site council meetings. I have received no reply whatsoever. Is there a law that says I cannot participate with school matters until my daughter is actually enrolled in the school? If so, then why are they taxing me today to pay this principal's salary? This is similar to the current debt limit waiver that the city council is voting on for the bond measure approval. Board members and district staff are now VERY accessible. "Call me anytime!" they now say. Communication and participation is a two-way street. Even speaking at a board meeting is an endurance contest to the point where Sara C. unsuccessfully circulated a petition requesting they move public comment towards the front of the agenda. For participation, I want to observe these meetings and learn what is going on in my daughter's future school. Is that too much to ask? From the WCCUSD principal's job description" "3.Establishes and maintains sensitive and mutually beneficial relationships with the community." I'll participate when they permit me to. Currently, I participate by giving them my money. Maybe that's all they want.
Susan D.Keeffe January 27, 2013 at 06:17 PM
This all points out the importance of attending the Council Meeting this Tuesday night and expressing our input about revenues. We have been given an opportunity To speak up. I plan to attend and possibly speak. I hope many others will join me. Topics can include things talked about here from looking at regionalization, trimming administrative costs, Administrative reorganization, health and benefit contribution rates, actively marketing Hercules, considering condos not apartments etc I do not support, for example, an 11% garbage rate increase added to a garbage franchise increase. With an aging population senior discounts must be available to all who qualify fir all fees, taxes etc. Council meetings may be more effective than staged town hall meetings where we are told what will happen and not respectfully listened to or having our words distorted. The Hercules economic reality for those who purchased from 2002-2008 is significantly different than the reality faced by the majority of Herculeans. How can this be addressed? How about some temporary tax and fee reductions for them while they fight for economic survival?.
Giorgio C. January 27, 2013 at 06:32 PM
The council needs to come to this meeting prepared. They should bring all up-to-date documentation in order to ensure a meeting that is efficient, effective, and transparent. Hercules should not even consider placing anything on the ballot until each and every concern raised by everyone and anyone has been addressed. Sound fair?
Sarah Creeley January 27, 2013 at 06:53 PM
Hi Giorgio, The petition I started, that you signed, (thank you), was "unsuccessful" in the sense that I did not continue working to get signatures. I did follow through on my request that public comment at school board meetings be moved up to the beginning of School Board meetings by speaking directly to Madeline Kronenberg, a school board member, at the Hercules Democratic Club's Education Forum. She told me she would change it. At this point, I'm not sure if that has been done, but I did recently remind her of this promise at a City Council meeting she attended. I hope they do change this to make the process more accessible to community members who wish to speak.
Annie R. January 28, 2013 at 05:11 AM
Set up a dunk tank full of untreated sewage at Sycamore North. I'd gladly pay a few bucks to see Oliva, Balico, Valstad, et al, struggle to surface from stinking goo.
Douglas Bright January 28, 2013 at 04:36 PM
Actually, I believe that property taxes and sales taxes can be structured to be somewhat progressive: Property Tax - Option 1 - Stagger the ad valorem tax so that the rate increases the more valuable your home is. For instance, the first $100,000 of value would be taxed at 0.5%, the next $100,000-$500,000 of its value would be taxed at 1%, etc. Property Tax - Option 2 - Offer an exemption to the tax for the first $100,000 of value so that only the value above that amount is subject to the tax. Sales Tax - Option 1 - Stagger the tax so that the rate increases the more expensive the item you are purchasing is. For instance, an item under $25 would be taxed at 4%, $25-$75 would be taxed at 6%, etc. Sales Tax - Option 2 - Exempt any single item under a specified dollar value from any tax at all. Mix and match the options as desired. Another idea to consider is income taxes. Some cities have their own income tax schemes. I'd trade that for a corresponding decrease in property and sales taxes. A great resource to compare the taxes of California with other States in the country is here: http://www.itepnet.org/whopays.htm
Phil Simmons January 28, 2013 at 05:07 PM
Douglass, I don't see progressive taxes in the manner you have described. Sure, you have presented a tiered tax structure but that does not make them progressive. Here is the simplest idea I can use explain things. Someone makes $8 per hour ($320per week). They have a refrigerator that dies and must buy a new one. No matter how you tier the sales tax when they replace the refrigerator they will get taxed as much as the executive they work for that makes $3M per year and needs a new refrigerator too. Another example. Someone owns a 3000 sg/ft house. They bought it in 1990 for $100,000. It is paid for, in full. They pay taxes on it as suggested. There neighbor is a young couple that buys exactly the same sort of house in 2007 for $500,000 they put down $100,000 that they save up for with a decade of hard work. They owe $400,000 and can barely make ends meet. They will pay 5 times as much in the suggested parcel tax as the couple that has a house fully paid for that is actually now worth the same amount $500,000. So, do you tax based on means or based on cost of an asset. Progressive taxes are traditionally meant as a measure of means. Your solution is not progressive, it is tiered. A completely different thing. And in some senerios is even more regressive that a flatter structure.
Phil Simmons January 28, 2013 at 05:08 PM
pardon the first reply, the spell check in my head works no better than the on on our ipad.
Douglas Bright January 28, 2013 at 08:13 PM
Good points Phil. I don't argue that the refrigerator example demonstrates how regressive the tax could be, assuming poor people decide to buy the same appliance models as rich people. However, since the vast majority of purchases by people of lesser means fall well below the expense of a refrigerator a rich person may decide to buy, I believe that on a year over year basis (though not necessarily on an item by item basis) it would come out to be mildly progressive. Even using the refrigerator example, a well off person is liable to purchase a much more expensive model than someone of modest means. In a tiered sales tax structure, the more expensive model would be subject to a higher tax rate and thus likely target those with more substantial assets/income. The property tax issue you bring up is a very good one. This inequality was created by Prop 13 and should be corrected. Property taxes are taxes on wealth, and if we are going to tax wealth, it should be based on the ACTUAL wealth of the asset in question (be it a car, real property, or savings and investments), not on some arbitrary 2% per annum rate of appreciation from 1990. I agree that Prop 13 makes property taxes irrationally distributed. The tiered options I mentioned would work better in states not laboring under such an irrational system, however, it would improve ours nonetheless - at least until we can amend Prop 13.
Douglas Bright January 28, 2013 at 08:16 PM
And while we're on the subject of wealth taxation, why focus only on real property? This unfairly targets the poor who pay it through their rent or the middle class who have most of their wealth tied up in their home. Rich people have a much larger portion of their wealth tied up in equities and other non-physical investment instruments. Why isn't that wealth taxed?
Phil Simmons January 28, 2013 at 08:49 PM
Douglass, There are all manner of ways to cut a tax deal. CA has very unequal and very unfair processes in place. But the real issue is tax here in Hercules. We are already taxed to death. My property tax bill has the regular County Tax plus 21 other assessments, some county, some city, some school, some medical. One I have is a Lighting and Landscaping tax of about $600/year. The interesting part of it is that it covers what it says, sort of. We have street lights in the front. They are covered. We have a patch of grass about 4ft wide by 50 ft long that gets mowed. It is covered. We also have an HOA bill. The interesting part is that in most of Hercules PGE covers the street lighting, not a special assessment as we have in this community. The worse part is, I am required to leave the front porch light on, as there are not enough street lights for good coverage. I am also required to leave a garage light on as there is no lighting at all in the road behind the house. I cannot turn the lights off as there is no switch. They run every day 7 days a week after dark. I have to pay for the power to run them. That was not so bad when our community had a special discount on HMU power. But that discount is now gone and our rates are going up, in my case almost 30%. I do not have a choice in the power cost nor a choice in not using the power. I and forced by the city to run the lights and forced to pay the HMU rates.
Phil Simmons January 28, 2013 at 08:54 PM
Others in the city have lighting paid for by PGE and have cheaper power rates from PGE and no lighting and landscaping charges. We are triple hit my community. The Bayside and Baywood communities have the same problem. Forced to use power and force to pay an unfair rate due to the HMU cost. I am a Kaiser customer. Dr's. Medical is of little value to me. I pay 3 taxes to them. Don't even get started on the fact that this side of Hercules has no local school. But I have 7 WCCUSD special taxes. The list goes on and on. Not matter the method, progressive, regressive, whatever. The taxes in Hercules are some of the highest in all of California. I will fight against any tax of any kind brought forward by the city. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH
Giorgio C. January 29, 2013 at 03:40 AM
Toni, You want to outsource to the county employees? The same employees who are currently suing for their perceived right to spike their pensions using their unearned vacation hours? You want to support the county sheriff after what the Grand Jury said about their pension practices? Seriously? After what I just read, I think Hercules should start cutting county contracts whenever and wherever possible and privatize. This includes the animal shelter and library (if staffed with county employees), and any other entity staffed with county employees. To the county employees who do not support this practice, I apologize. Please tell your unions to knock this nonsense off. The county is a branch of government that seems to be slithering under the radar with respect to oversight. We can't even attend a county board of supervisors meeting because they are held in the middle of the day. The city and state have paid their dues and they are not suing to spike their pensions. I'll support our city employees because they have shared the pain like the rest of us. Forget the sheriff, Toni. Read this article http://www.contracostatimes.com/daniel-borenstein/ci_22449799/daniel-borenstein-jerry-brown-kamala-harris-ducking-legal
Toni Leance January 29, 2013 at 04:19 AM
Giorgio your taxes are going to the county anyway wether you support them or not I am saying that a local police force is expensive and maybe we can get our safety at a lower price. I said the county or perhaps joining another city like Pinole. We need to look at all the expenses and see what we can do to get our services for less. I also think city hall is still top heavy with managers and not workers or the managers are doing jobs that we can get done for less with somone without a big job title. What "shared pain" they got rid of all the workers but the buracrates still have jobs! They cut from the bottom up i am saying they need to cut from the top that is where there is money to be saved. It is obscene that we had both a city manger and a deputy city manger in a town of 25k residents.
Phil Simmons January 29, 2013 at 04:33 AM
More taxes for Hercules is just plain disgusting, no matter how you want to excuse it. This town has failed to create a sustainable future. More tax will only support more bad choices and eventually more taxes. The cycle of waste and poor planning will get us no where. And as long as the citizenry is willing to play along nothing will improve. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH
Phil Simmons January 29, 2013 at 04:42 AM
GC, Bad practice of county wide unions does not excuse the waste and poor choices made in Hercules. 21 assessments on the current property tax bill is enough. A 6% UUT tax when most cities have 0% is enough. A 9% sales tax, the highest in the State is enough. The highest development fees this side of Walnut Creek is enough. Selling the city of to LED sign advertising is Stupid. 4+1 accountants on the payroll is enough. Failed development plans leaving this city with a sea of apartments, under parked and under served is enough. Wasting time in City Council meetings discussing taxes and propping up an education committee to fight with the school board is a waste of time and money. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH
Giorgio C. January 29, 2013 at 05:02 AM
Phil, Half the time of every council meeting is spent listening to you expatiate on what is important to you. Show some manners, laddie, and let others have some time.
Phil Simmons January 29, 2013 at 06:05 PM
Giorgio, I will be done with the meetings soon enough. The city is on a path that will be finished soon enough and will be all the less for it. Until then I'll just keep trying. In the meantime if others will show up and take on the issues I'll willingly give them my time. But for the most part if I or a handful of others don't take up the issues it seems no one will. Glad to see you there speaking last week.
Giorgio C. February 09, 2013 at 07:47 PM
I was sorry to hear Hercules recently lost a citizen and current Planning Commissioner, Jose Bibal, who has been volunteering his time on the commission since 2007. I never met him, but I am grateful for his volunteering efforts and am sorry for his family's loss. http://www.civiccenterchapel.com/obituaries/Jose-Bibal2032122287/?wms_redirected=1#/Obituary

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