City Council votes to extend parcel tax renewal from 4 to 12 years

Frank Ryan, chairman of the city’s Budget Advisory and Financial Planning Committee, presents to City Council on Oct. 17.

The tax, aka the Municipal Services Special Tax, makes up 7 percent of the city’s total revenue and funds police and fire protection, parks and other daily city operations.

The City Council voted unanimously on Monday to change the Municipal Services Special Tax – often referred to simply as the “parcel tax” — from needing renewal every four years to requiring renewal every 12 years.

The council also asked city staff to help compute how much the parcel tax would be if it pays for beefed up police dispatching, increased safety camera technology, and other potential costs. City Administrator Rosanna Bayon Moore told the council that could drive up the total cost of the tax by at least 20 percent.

The council also directed staff to fold the existing city paramedic tax — about $18 a year — into the parcel tax going forward.

City finance officials estimate the parcel tax will bring in $2.622 million during fiscal year 2023-24 — approximately 7 percent of the city’s total annual revenue. The money it raises pays for police and fire protection, street and parks maintenance, and daily city operations.

Frank Ryan, chairman of the city’s Budget Advisory and Financial Planning Committee, told the council simply, “It would be bad not having a parcel tax going forward.”

It was generally agreed Monday that the city needs the money it has collected from the parcel tax since it was first implemented in 1981 in direct response to Proposition 13. Twenty-four years later, a 2005 City Council report noted that “a quarter century of experience has proven that Piedmont cannot maintain even minimal service levels without a Parcel Tax.”

The council opted not to completely eliminate the “sunset” date, as had been recommended by city staff. 

“I think there’s accountability in some sort of recurring renewal,” Councilman Tom Ramsey said. The other council members eventually came to support that stance. 

Even if this isn’t on the March 2024 election ballot, Piedmont voters will have to approve whether to extend the tax before it expires June 25, 2025.

City Attorney Michelle Kenyon urged the council to carefully consider offering Piedmont residents a clear message ahead of any parcel tax, given its importance to the city. 

While the suggested increase voters will consider has yet to be decided, the council’s vote Monday included an increase in the basic tax of either 4 percent or the Consumer Price Index increase amount (whichever amount is lower). More specifics are to be presented to the council at its first November meeting. 

New city clerk

Anna M. Brown, who spent nine years as Union City’s city clerk, was appointed Monday night as Piedmont’s new city clerk. She is set to start her new job on Nov. 13.

Brown succeeds John Tulloch, who left the position in July after 13 years. Since 2018, Tulloch had also been Piedmont’s assistant city administrator.

The council on July 17 appointed Shari Hartz as interim city clerk while the search for permanent city clerk was underway. Twenty-five applicants were screened, and six of them were asked to interview. Brown was ranked by various city interviewers as the top candidate.

Brown, who also spent five years as deputy city clerk in South San Francisco, will earn $14,787 per month salary in Piedmont, plus a monthly auto allowance of $250 and other standard benefits.

Brown was in attendance Monday night and made a brief statement, pledging to foster a sense of trust between Piedmont residents and their city government.

City Council members, and Bayon Moore, said they expect Brown to be an important part of local government going forward. “Can you start earlier?” Ramsey joked.

Pool project progress

A team of people representing various parts of the new community pool project told the City Council Monday that the project is approximately 42 percent complete, and that a targeted finish date should still be late summer 2024, or perhaps slightly after that.

A city staff report says that approximately 58 percent of the “contingency” budget, money set aside for unanticipated project costs, has been used as part of approved change order requests to address various unforeseen conditions, as well as clarification of design issues. 

“There are still a lot of little items we need to refine and resolve,” George Sanen, the pool’s project manager, told the council.

Nevertheless, the pool project continues to be within budget guidelines. Clarence Mamuyac, president and CEO of ELS Architecture and Urban Design, said supply chain issues could mean delays in getting some needed equipment, specifically electric pool-heating equipment.

Mayor Jen Cavenaugh said it’s hard to be patient when it comes to the pool. “As I told Clarence … we’re stressed until we’re swimming.”

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