Pleasant Hill’s Measure T will add a 1.5% tax on most utilities including cell phones and telecom services, electricity, gas, cable, water, and sewer, on top of the current tax added to landline intrastate phone bills. The City estimates this new tax will generate $870,000 annually from those living and operating businesses in Pleasant Hill. But what has the Pleasant Hill done to substantially reduce costs before raising taxes?
Pleasant Hill’s City Council rushed to get Measure T on the November ballot because City income from sales tax and other sources has declined due to the poor economy. But how can higher taxes paid by residents and businesses benefit the local economy when Pleasant Hill itself hasn’t learned to cut back and live within its means?
1. The City of Pleasant Hill (population 33,000) has 22 employees — about 20% of its workforce — whose annual base pay exceeds $100,000. Employees pay nothing towards their PERS pension benefits. If they did so, City pension costs could be cut by one-third.
2. Renegotiating labor contracts to reflect the customary employee pension contributions (9% for police, 7% for non-police) could save taxpayers over $840,000 annually, which is nearly the same amount that Measure T will generate. Cities throughout the state are revisiting labor agreements to increase employees’ pension plan contributions and Pleasant Hill should, too.
Voters should reject Measure T because it is unnecessary and unaffordable for residents and small businesses during the current economic slump. Why should residents pay higher taxes while the City operates “business as usual”? Raising taxes now will remove any incentive for government to live within its means. Why would the City reduce costs once it is addicted to getting over $1 MILLION OF YOUR HARD-EARNED TAX DOLLARS EVERY YEAR?
Raising taxes on basic household necessities will hit hardest on seniors and businesses with high utility use at a time when fixed income residents and businesses are least able to afford it. While City officials are fond of minimizing Measure T’s potential impacts, the fact is that this tax will place an additional strain on taxpayers’ overstretched budgets and grow over time as utility rates increase. Good thing the City made sure this new tax also applies to late fees.
The effective unemployment rate in California is 17%. Raising taxes on seniors, families and small businesses now simply adds insult to injury. Residents will pay this tax twice – once at home and again when they shop in Pleasant Hill and pay higher prices that reflect the inevitable pass-through of this tax to customers. Increasing the numbers of empty storefronts in town will do nothing to boost Pleasant Hill’s sales tax receipts.
Pleasant Hill – with approximately $8 million in cash reserves – has infinitely more ways to reduce its expenses than do residents. Voters should reject Measure T and tell City officials to do their FAIR SHARE and get serious about reducing expenses to ensure Pleasant Hill’s long-term financial security and economic vitality. Learn more at nopleasanthilltax.weebly.com.