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YOLO COUNTY NEWS
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Bob Dunning: Things are about to get interesting

BobDunning2W

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From page A2 | January 30, 2014 | 9 Comments

“Council on taxes: We need options,” said the headline over Dave Ryan’s story yesterday in Davis’ Only Local Daily Newspaper.
“The Davis City Council bought time Tuesday night to wait until the last minute to place taxes on the June ballot that could shore up city finances temporarily,” Ryan’s front-pager notes.
“What the members bought with that time are options to place a companion measure on the ballot that specifies — in a non-legally binding way — what the money will be used for, a chance to mull how to do outreach to the community and a shorter life span for the taxes.”
Generally, most of us are in favor of longer life spans, but when it comes to taxes, I think we can all live with shorter.
Adds Ryan: “The council also wants to emphasize to voters the city’s determination to build a business park that could bring in the necessary tax income for the long term.”
It used to be the city would try to “educate” the voters about these things. But now, in our kinder, gentler world, the operative word is “outreach.” They’re coming at us with arms outstretched, seeking our input, perhaps over a cup of a tea and a plate of cookies.
“The council is considering placing a three-quarter-cent addition to the sales tax on the June ballot and a $150-per-year parcel tax on the November ballot.”
Turns out the sales tax increase would take a simple majority to pass, while the parcel tax requires a much more difficult two-thirds approval.
“Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kemble Pope read the results of a survey of Chamber members on the tax issue that showed 60 percent of respondents said yes to a question about whether the city should keep cutting rather than levying more taxes. ‘I don’t think it is going to fly with the community,’ he said.”
Not so fast, Mr. Pope. If the case can be made that the funds are needed, I’ve yet to see a tax this town won’t approve.
Understandably, those who are in the business of selling things fear any and all tax increases because they raise the total price of the items being sold. And if they raise the price too much, some people will stop buying.
There’s no question that a three-quarter-cent tax increase, as innocuous as that might seem, could have a counter-productive dampening effect on sales in town, but it’s doubtful many people would take their business elsewhere.
The good news for the council is if the case can be made that without this tax Davis will essentially become Woodland, the thing will pass with flying colors. Still, given that a three-quarter-cent tax raises the price of a hundred-dollar item by only 75 cents, I don’t see it having a significant effect on local commerce. Most folks won’t even notice the difference.
For me and my family and our day-to-day budget, it’s the least painful way to go. The saving grace to raising revenue through sales is that if the tax becomes too much for us, we can simply stop shopping. Yes, you do still have to eat, but groceries aren’t taxed.
The parcel tax is a different matter altogether, despite the fact that it’s just $12.50 a month. The bugaboo here is that onerous two-thirds approval requirement, which is a high hurdle indeed, even if the measure promises free chocolate for life for every Davis resident.
Councilman Lucas Frerichs, who has clearly given this measure considerable thought, cautioned his colleagues that as our new water and sewer rates begin their dramatic rise, many Davis residents might have already reached the breaking point and will be unlikely to approve any new taxes before all other budget alternatives have been considered. A serious consideration indeed, as the city moves forward with this.
Fasten your seat belts, folks. And hold onto your pocketbooks. Things are about to get very interesting.

— Reach Bob Dunning at bdunning@davisenterprise.net

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Discussion | 9 comments

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  • January 30, 2014 - 6:49 am

    One thing I know for sure, the city is grossly overpaying the firefighters, I've heard they make $175,000/yr. compensation packages . Recently we had 300 firefighter job applicants line up in the cold for a Davis firefighter job so filling those positions with a more reasonable pay scale wouldn't be difficult. Why should I and others who are struggling to pay our bills be asked to pay more in taxes to support such extravagant pay? I say the city needs to cut more because the people have been taxed enough already.

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  • SteveJanuary 30, 2014 - 10:57 am

    Watch Brett Lee's comments during the tax discussion and you'll understand.

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  • January 30, 2014 - 5:47 pm

    Has anyone looked at wages and total compensation packages of firefighters, police officers and other city workers in surrounding areas to see if we are comparable? Is this just a Davis issue? Davis does need to be competitive if we are to attract quality people. You do get what you pay for. I don't think we want the leftovers that couldn't make it at all the other cities. Davis should seek to be in the median salary range for our employees.

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  • greg johnsonJanuary 30, 2014 - 7:04 pm

    You don't necessarily get what you pay for. Why do you think there are hundreds of people applying for any open firefighter position? Because it's like winning the lottery. I have great respect for firefighters but there is no reason to pay so much to attract competent applicants

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  • Rich RifkinJanuary 30, 2014 - 7:46 pm

    "Has anyone looked at wages and total compensation packages of firefighters, police officers and other city workers in surrounding areas to see if we are comparable?" ........... Yes. Google this: "Vanguard Analysis: Davis Firefighters Near Top in Compensation, Police Near Bottom"

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  • Rich RifkinJanuary 30, 2014 - 7:51 pm

    "Davis should seek to be in the median salary range for our employees." ................... No, that's wrong. Davis needs to pay no more than it can sustainably afford. The horrible financial mess we are in today--facing bankruptcy--is due to our insane efforts to pay as much or more as other cities which are also now going broke. There are plenty of good people who would work for much less than Davis is now paying.

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  • January 30, 2014 - 8:39 pm

    So..Davis pretty much can't afford anything. Should we entertain going to a completely or mostly volunteer fire dept? Let's face it, it's just buildings that burn up. They can be rebuilt and there's a saying in the fire service that " in spite of what we do, all fires eventually go out". Possessions can be replaced and almost all victims trapped in a fire upon firefighter arrival are non salvageable. The only down side I see is that our homeowner's insurance rates will inch up but we could save a lot of tax dollars.

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  • Rich RifkinJanuary 30, 2014 - 9:36 pm

    "Should we entertain going to a completely or mostly volunteer fire dept?" ............. No. We need a professional fire service in Davis. We can have one every bit as good at half the cost per man-hour, if our Council were looking out for our city's best interests, and not looking out for their own political interests. That lack of ethics is what got us in this terrible pickle. The firefighters corrupted the process. The unions are still pulling the strings with 2 of the 5 people on the City Council, because those 2 (Dan and Lucas) want the unions to help them win higher office. It's morally bankrupt. But the people of Davis apparently don't care. That's how we got Mariko Yamada, after all.

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  • Greg JohnsonJanuary 31, 2014 - 10:00 am

    I think you're exactly right Rich

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