California has a pretty insatiable desire for taxing anything and anyone that moves. State income tax, sales tax, vehicle license fees, special levies, the list goes on. And the state routinely raids our coffers to spend on their pet projects.
But I do remind them that local taxes go for local services and projects that citizens need and expect. Police, roads and recreation are where most of our tax dollars are spent and to lessen dollars budgeted for those things would diminish our basic quality of life. And because much of the money raised by a sales tax is paid by visitors who make retail purchases in Scotts Valley, this tax is fair.
I have also discovered that people have long memories. Instead of a pat on the back for fixing Scotts Valley Drive, or developing a jewel like Skypark, or recapturing millions of dollars from the County that they were illegally taking from us, or providing community events like the 4th of July fireworks, folks do like to remind us that we make mistakes. Again I agree. We are not perfect. As a government agency, we will never be as efficient as most families, but I do believe that the tax dollar goes farther here than in most cities.
Capitola is a fine city, but with similar populations and twice the number of square miles, Scotts Valley budgets around $8.2 million while their budget stands at more than $13 million. Measure U will allow us to keep our budget where it is and keep our services intact. We are able to do more with less because we have 21 percent fewer employees then we did 10 years ago. Our City Manager wears two hats and is also our finance manager. Next month when our public works director retires, we will combine his job with another department head. Employees have been furloughed one day a month.
I like the fact that Measure U is a temporary tax and that people can vote on it. Keeping it temporary reminds us that it is the peoples’ money and not permanently entrenched in city coffers. And voting on it sends the message that city government must earn the right to receive more revenue and reinforces the notion that, at least locally, the people are in charge, not government.
But make no mistake; Measure U is critical to our City’s future. Without it, severe cuts will have to be made. The last time people voted in a temporary tax, the council respected that provision and let it expire after five years in 2011. Trust and fidelity matter. We said that we would only come to the voters when necessary. Well, now is that time. A ‘yes’ vote on Measure U will ensure that we keep the services we have and on November 5 I am asking you to help us achieve that goal.
- Randy Johnson is the mayor of Scotts Valley. He has served on the Scotts Valley City Council since 1996.