CO$T Won't Support More than 10 Years Initial Term for County Wild Fire Preparedness Tax. Additional Concerns include Lack of JPA Project List and Clarity re Citizen Oversight Committee.
CO$T supports the idea of coordinated county-wide wild fire prevention. But we're concerned that the initial term of the enabling tax is FOREVER.
Without a periodic renewal measure on the ballot, taxpayer-voters will have no further opportunity to weigh in on whether the perpetual tax with annual escalators is still needed and being spent wisely.
CO$T submitted and read into the record the following memo on September 24, 2020 to the Marin County Board of Supervisors:
To: Marin County Board of Supervisors, County Administrator, and County Fire Chief
From: The Coalition of Sensible Taxpayers
Date: September 24, 2019
RE: Wildfire JPA Tax Measure Initial Term Must Not Exceed Ten Years; Additional Concerns include Lack of Project List and Clarity re Citizen Oversight Committee
The Coalition of Sensible Taxpayers believes in the need for a county-wide approach to wildfire protection and in theory supports funding that via a county-wide tax tied to square footage of improved property.
However, CO$T will not support funding a novel, untested, Joint Powers Authority (JPA) with a tax whose initial term exceeds ten years.
CO$T is recognized for its sensible, disciplined approach to weighing need for funding against the appropriateness of the funding mechanism. We have widely publicized our Sensible Tax Criteria. One of our key criteria is:
“Every tax should have a sunset date — and one that is tied to the projects it funds. For most sales and parcel taxes, 8-10 years is a reasonable maximum term; voters then have the opportunity to renew, cancel, or amend these taxes (which can be especially important if the tax/fee or what it funds is novel).”
The proposed JPA is indeed novel. No one can fully anticipate all the possibilities of what can go right or wrong. As such, it is imperative that taxpayers have an opportunity to weigh in via a renewal measure within the next decade. That democratic event provides an essential check and reset opportunity that will keep the county-wide initiative performing optimally over the long-term.
CO$T also urges that the JPA resolution address these additional concerns:
- Project list. Per our Sensible Tax criteria, every tax measure that funds a series of maintenance or capital projects should be supported by a project list. The JPA is new. Voters deserve to know what the money will be spent on during the initial 10 year term advocated above.
- Citizens Oversight Committee. CO$T would like to see a COC that has teeth and is not just a rubberstamp. We would be receptive to a dialogue that ensures that appropriate language mandating such a COC structure is in the JPA authorizing resolution.
The above are the initial concerns we have regarding the Marin County wildfire JPA and tax measure. Foremost among those is the requirement for a ten-year sunset.Additional concerns and comments from us may arise as more details emerge.
CO$T will continue to work with all parties toward what we hope will be a successful county-wide wildfire protection plan.