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Despite business objections, Palo Alto advances new tax

Two revenue measures advance toward November ballot with Finance Committee's support

Companies such as SAP at Stanford Research Park would bear the brunt of a new business tax if the measure is approved by voters in November 2022. Embarcadero Media file photo by Lloyd Lee.

Pam Decharo is still recovering from two years of pandemic-induced upheaval.

Decharo, owner of Hair International at Stanford Shopping Center, shut her salon down for seven months during the early days of the COVID-19 crisis in March 2020. Since then, she has been navigating through the ever-shifting public health mandates, investing in personal protective equipment and hoping that her customers will come back after a prolonged absence. She said she had to dip into her retirement account so that she could change the air conditioning unit in her salon and she is still spending thousands of dollars for K95 masks, filters and high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters.

Now, she and many other business owners are dismayed to see the City Council move ahead with its plan to place a business tax on the November ballot. On Monday night, the council's Finance Committee took another step toward the ballot measure when it made various refinements to the tax proposal, which will exclude grocery stores and hotels and which will be based on square footage.

Palo Alto officials are hoping to protect businesses like Hair International and other small retailers and service providers by making the first 5,000 square feet of every business largely exempt, subject to only a $50 annual fee. Beyond the 5,000-square-foot threshold, each business will have to pay a per-square-foot fee that the city has yet to set, though officials have signaled that it would probably be between 10 cents and 15 cents per square foot per month.

Even with these exemptions, Decharo believes the tax sends a terrible message to the business community.

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"I understand this business tax isn't going to be huge for small businesses in dollars, but it's just the thought that they can be so tone deaf to discuss this right after our big fight to get reopened," Decharo said in an interview. "And then we're still in the middle of this pandemic and it won't go away. This thing can turn around and we would get shut down again."

She is hardly alone in opposing a business tax. During recent focus groups, just about all participating businesses expressed concern or outright opposition to the proposed measure, said Shawn Spano, whose firm Public Dialogue Consortium has been facilitating the meetings over the past month. Many suggested that this was a bad time for a new tax, which they said will provide a disincentive for attracting new businesses and drive some existing companies out of business.

"There were also several members of the focus groups who were very clear and direct, who said they would not support the business license tax under any conditions," Spano said.

The skepticism in the business community has not, however, spilled over to the city's electorate. Recent surveys conducted by the city's consulting firm FM3 show about 63% of the respondents indicated that they will likely support a business tax. The survey also signaled that most voters would also support a separate measure affirming the city's historic practice of transferring funds from its gas utility to the general fund to pay for basic city services. Palo Alto halted practice, which dates back to the 1950s, after resident Miriam Green sued the city and the court upheld her challenge in 2020, deeming the transfer an illegal tax.

"There's a sizable group of voters who would vote yes on both measures," Dave Metz, president of FM3, told the Finance Committee on Monday.

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The numbers for the utility measure proved particularly strong, with about 70% of the survey's 427 respondents indicating support. This included 82% of those who said they support the business tax and 54% of those who oppose adopting a business tax.

"The more voters understand it, the more confidence they tend to have in voting yes," Metz said of the utility measure.

Faced with the encouraging results, the Finance Committee advanced both measures. It voted to cap the gas transfer at 18% of annual sales, which is roughly in line with past practice. If approved, the utility measure would raise about $7 million annually, allowing the council to restore many of the services and positions that it had cut over the past two years, including positions in Police and Community Service departments.

The business tax could raise significantly more funds. According to staff estimates, a measure based on square footage could raise between $10.9 million (if the rate is set at 5 cents per square foot per month) and $43.4 million (if it's set at 20 cents per square foot per month). The committee on Tuesday supported a proposal by Chair Tom DuBois to set the rate at about 12 cents per square foot when the measure takes effect in January 2024 and then gradually raise it over the next few years, possibly to as high as 20 cents.

The full council is set to consider the rate of the business tax on April 18 and several council members, including Eric Filseth and Alison Cormack, had opposed moving to the higher end of the rate range. Filseth, who serves on the Finance Committee, indicated that he would likely support a lower rate when the question goes to the full council.

The city's largest companies, which would bear the brunt of the new tax, argued over recent meetings that the tax should be scrapped altogether or, at the very least, delayed. Decharo participated in a March 3 focus group that included more than a dozen representatives from Stanford Research Park giants such as VMware, SAP and Lockheed Martin. Everyone at the meeting was against the measure for one reason or another, she said.

Shweta Bhatnagar, senior director of government affairs at Stanford University, spoke for many in the business community on Tuesday, when she asked the council to reconsider the measure.

"Businesses are still facing some uncertainty with high inflation, supply chain issues, an unstable workforce and possible new variants emerging," Bhatnagar said.

Stanford Research Park and Stanford Shopping Center already make a huge contribution toward the city's economy, she said. Research Park companies contribute about $20 million in direct sales tax to the city's general fund and another $22 million to the Palo Alto Unified School District, she said. The shopping center contributes another $6 million in sales tax revenues to Palo Alto, as well as $5 million in utility taxes.

"Adding a new tax to the mix increases the tax burden on local businesses," Bhatnager said. "This will no doubt impact a company's decision to locate or stay in Palo Alto."

While largely focused on big businesses, the tax could hurt small ones as well, said Charlie Weidanz, CEO of the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce. He suggested that if large companies end up leaving the city because of the square-footage tax, their departure will have a devastating spillover effect on the small retailers, restaurants and service providers who depend on them for customers.

'Adding a new tax to the mix increases the tax burden on local businesses. This will no doubt impact a company's decision to locate or stay in Palo Alto.'

-Shweta Bhatnagar, senior director of government affairs, Stanford University

"We are hearing from our business members how difficult it is to make ends meet here in Palo Alto, and our business community can't afford a business tax of this magnitude. … A new business license tax can negatively impact on our retention of business as well as a reduction in new businesses to fill all the vacancies we have, resulting in fewer customers to support the small business owner," Weidanz said.

Bhatnagar asked that if the city does move ahead with the tax measure, it should make sure that the use of the funds has a "well understood nexus to the business community."

While the opposition from the business community did not dent the committee's enthusiasm for the new tax, Filseth concurred with Bhatnagar's argument that the revenues from the tax should be spent on services that benefit the business community.

"We've got to make sure it works for everybody, including the business community," Filseth said. "And I think they have a lot of needs."

He pointed to enhancement of public safety, including additional security on University Avenue, as a service for both residents and businesses. Council member Lydia Kou noted that the revenues could also help the city hire a new economic development manager, who would be tasked with improving the city's business mix and filling the growing number of vacancies in commercial districts along El Camino Real and on California Avenue.

Kou also suggested, however, that no matter how the city chooses to spend the proceeds from the business tax, local companies will "find it really hard to support another tax on them."

Should the measures pass, the council will have wide latitude on how to spend the money. Both of the proposed revenue measures are general taxes, which require a simple majority to pass and do not require the council to commit to a particular project. The poll by FM3 showed that potential voters are particularly enthusiastic about investing in public safety, affordable housing, pedestrian and bike projects and climate-action programs. It's likely that a large share of the proceeds would be devoted to these areas.

'We've got to make sure it works for everybody, including the business community. And I think they have a lot of needs.'

-Eric Filseth, Palo Alto City Council member

DuBois made a pitch for also allocating some of the funding to improving the rail corridor. The council has spent years talking about implementing grade separation at its four rail crossings so that roads and tracks no longer intersect. Some of the proposed designs could push the price tag of the project to more than $1 billion, DuBois observed.

The Finance Committee also suggested that when it comes to the timing of the tax measures, Palo Alto's large corporations may be protesting too much. Filseth flatly rejected the argument made by many that the council should not be adopting a tax this year because the city is just coming out of the pandemic.

"The reality is that tech companies did great during COVID," Filseth said. "They did better in COVID than before COVID, at least some of them. So the 'coming out of COVID' argument really doesn't apply to the sweet spot of where we're targeting this, which is large, enterprise corporations with global customers as opposed to local bookstores."

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Gennady Sheyner covers the City Hall beat in Palo Alto as well as regional politics, with a special focus on housing and transportation. Before joining the Palo Alto Weekly/PaloAltoOnline.com in 2008, he covered breaking news and local politics for the Waterbury Republican-American, a daily newspaper in Connecticut. Read more >>

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Despite business objections, Palo Alto advances new tax

Two revenue measures advance toward November ballot with Finance Committee's support

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, Mar 29, 2022, 12:59 am

Pam Decharo is still recovering from two years of pandemic-induced upheaval.

Decharo, owner of Hair International at Stanford Shopping Center, shut her salon down for seven months during the early days of the COVID-19 crisis in March 2020. Since then, she has been navigating through the ever-shifting public health mandates, investing in personal protective equipment and hoping that her customers will come back after a prolonged absence. She said she had to dip into her retirement account so that she could change the air conditioning unit in her salon and she is still spending thousands of dollars for K95 masks, filters and high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters.

Now, she and many other business owners are dismayed to see the City Council move ahead with its plan to place a business tax on the November ballot. On Monday night, the council's Finance Committee took another step toward the ballot measure when it made various refinements to the tax proposal, which will exclude grocery stores and hotels and which will be based on square footage.

Palo Alto officials are hoping to protect businesses like Hair International and other small retailers and service providers by making the first 5,000 square feet of every business largely exempt, subject to only a $50 annual fee. Beyond the 5,000-square-foot threshold, each business will have to pay a per-square-foot fee that the city has yet to set, though officials have signaled that it would probably be between 10 cents and 15 cents per square foot per month.

Even with these exemptions, Decharo believes the tax sends a terrible message to the business community.

"I understand this business tax isn't going to be huge for small businesses in dollars, but it's just the thought that they can be so tone deaf to discuss this right after our big fight to get reopened," Decharo said in an interview. "And then we're still in the middle of this pandemic and it won't go away. This thing can turn around and we would get shut down again."

She is hardly alone in opposing a business tax. During recent focus groups, just about all participating businesses expressed concern or outright opposition to the proposed measure, said Shawn Spano, whose firm Public Dialogue Consortium has been facilitating the meetings over the past month. Many suggested that this was a bad time for a new tax, which they said will provide a disincentive for attracting new businesses and drive some existing companies out of business.

"There were also several members of the focus groups who were very clear and direct, who said they would not support the business license tax under any conditions," Spano said.

The skepticism in the business community has not, however, spilled over to the city's electorate. Recent surveys conducted by the city's consulting firm FM3 show about 63% of the respondents indicated that they will likely support a business tax. The survey also signaled that most voters would also support a separate measure affirming the city's historic practice of transferring funds from its gas utility to the general fund to pay for basic city services. Palo Alto halted practice, which dates back to the 1950s, after resident Miriam Green sued the city and the court upheld her challenge in 2020, deeming the transfer an illegal tax.

"There's a sizable group of voters who would vote yes on both measures," Dave Metz, president of FM3, told the Finance Committee on Monday.

The numbers for the utility measure proved particularly strong, with about 70% of the survey's 427 respondents indicating support. This included 82% of those who said they support the business tax and 54% of those who oppose adopting a business tax.

"The more voters understand it, the more confidence they tend to have in voting yes," Metz said of the utility measure.

Faced with the encouraging results, the Finance Committee advanced both measures. It voted to cap the gas transfer at 18% of annual sales, which is roughly in line with past practice. If approved, the utility measure would raise about $7 million annually, allowing the council to restore many of the services and positions that it had cut over the past two years, including positions in Police and Community Service departments.

The business tax could raise significantly more funds. According to staff estimates, a measure based on square footage could raise between $10.9 million (if the rate is set at 5 cents per square foot per month) and $43.4 million (if it's set at 20 cents per square foot per month). The committee on Tuesday supported a proposal by Chair Tom DuBois to set the rate at about 12 cents per square foot when the measure takes effect in January 2024 and then gradually raise it over the next few years, possibly to as high as 20 cents.

The full council is set to consider the rate of the business tax on April 18 and several council members, including Eric Filseth and Alison Cormack, had opposed moving to the higher end of the rate range. Filseth, who serves on the Finance Committee, indicated that he would likely support a lower rate when the question goes to the full council.

The city's largest companies, which would bear the brunt of the new tax, argued over recent meetings that the tax should be scrapped altogether or, at the very least, delayed. Decharo participated in a March 3 focus group that included more than a dozen representatives from Stanford Research Park giants such as VMware, SAP and Lockheed Martin. Everyone at the meeting was against the measure for one reason or another, she said.

Shweta Bhatnagar, senior director of government affairs at Stanford University, spoke for many in the business community on Tuesday, when she asked the council to reconsider the measure.

"Businesses are still facing some uncertainty with high inflation, supply chain issues, an unstable workforce and possible new variants emerging," Bhatnagar said.

Stanford Research Park and Stanford Shopping Center already make a huge contribution toward the city's economy, she said. Research Park companies contribute about $20 million in direct sales tax to the city's general fund and another $22 million to the Palo Alto Unified School District, she said. The shopping center contributes another $6 million in sales tax revenues to Palo Alto, as well as $5 million in utility taxes.

"Adding a new tax to the mix increases the tax burden on local businesses," Bhatnager said. "This will no doubt impact a company's decision to locate or stay in Palo Alto."

While largely focused on big businesses, the tax could hurt small ones as well, said Charlie Weidanz, CEO of the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce. He suggested that if large companies end up leaving the city because of the square-footage tax, their departure will have a devastating spillover effect on the small retailers, restaurants and service providers who depend on them for customers.

"We are hearing from our business members how difficult it is to make ends meet here in Palo Alto, and our business community can't afford a business tax of this magnitude. … A new business license tax can negatively impact on our retention of business as well as a reduction in new businesses to fill all the vacancies we have, resulting in fewer customers to support the small business owner," Weidanz said.

Bhatnagar asked that if the city does move ahead with the tax measure, it should make sure that the use of the funds has a "well understood nexus to the business community."

While the opposition from the business community did not dent the committee's enthusiasm for the new tax, Filseth concurred with Bhatnagar's argument that the revenues from the tax should be spent on services that benefit the business community.

"We've got to make sure it works for everybody, including the business community," Filseth said. "And I think they have a lot of needs."

He pointed to enhancement of public safety, including additional security on University Avenue, as a service for both residents and businesses. Council member Lydia Kou noted that the revenues could also help the city hire a new economic development manager, who would be tasked with improving the city's business mix and filling the growing number of vacancies in commercial districts along El Camino Real and on California Avenue.

Kou also suggested, however, that no matter how the city chooses to spend the proceeds from the business tax, local companies will "find it really hard to support another tax on them."

Should the measures pass, the council will have wide latitude on how to spend the money. Both of the proposed revenue measures are general taxes, which require a simple majority to pass and do not require the council to commit to a particular project. The poll by FM3 showed that potential voters are particularly enthusiastic about investing in public safety, affordable housing, pedestrian and bike projects and climate-action programs. It's likely that a large share of the proceeds would be devoted to these areas.

DuBois made a pitch for also allocating some of the funding to improving the rail corridor. The council has spent years talking about implementing grade separation at its four rail crossings so that roads and tracks no longer intersect. Some of the proposed designs could push the price tag of the project to more than $1 billion, DuBois observed.

The Finance Committee also suggested that when it comes to the timing of the tax measures, Palo Alto's large corporations may be protesting too much. Filseth flatly rejected the argument made by many that the council should not be adopting a tax this year because the city is just coming out of the pandemic.

"The reality is that tech companies did great during COVID," Filseth said. "They did better in COVID than before COVID, at least some of them. So the 'coming out of COVID' argument really doesn't apply to the sweet spot of where we're targeting this, which is large, enterprise corporations with global customers as opposed to local bookstores."

Comments

DTN Paul
Registered user
Downtown North
on Mar 29, 2022 at 12:49 pm
DTN Paul, Downtown North
Registered user
on Mar 29, 2022 at 12:49 pm

Yay. More taxes. This will surely make Palo Alto a more vibrant and dynamic place.


Tom DuBois
Registered user
Midtown
on Mar 29, 2022 at 1:09 pm
Tom DuBois, Midtown
Registered user
on Mar 29, 2022 at 1:09 pm

I think this story missed a very important element which is the outreach the City has made to everyone - residents and businesses, hearing their comments and adjusting the parameters of the business tax. The Finance committee listened and adopted many of the suggestions the business community asked for last night.

Many businesses are opposed to any tax and will continue to throw up objections as we head to the ballot box. However some businesses realize that Palo Alto is one of the few cities without a tax and would support a business tax that addresses their concerns. Last night they raised concerns about timing of the start of the tax, uncapped consumer price index increases and uses of funds.

On timing, the finance committee suggested the tax won't start for two years and then would phase in over the next 3 years, so businesses would have until 2027 to adjust to the full business tax. The issues being raised about short-term impacts of Covid should hopefully be years behind us at that point.

And on uses of funds, we had an extensive discussion about focusing these funds on public safety including our commercial districts, affordable housing and the unhoused, and transportation improvements and safety. These investments benefit the entire community - businesses and residences.

On uncapped CPI increases, the committee passed a motion that Council should cap the annual CPI adjustment in any one year as requested by the business community.

Hopefully the finance committee's responsiveness addressed these concerns


ALB
Registered user
College Terrace
on Mar 29, 2022 at 1:49 pm
ALB, College Terrace
Registered user
on Mar 29, 2022 at 1:49 pm

Palo Alto is the outlier when compared to other municipalities concerning requiring a business tax. Council member Tom DuBois has articulated well how the city has listened to residents about going forward with the tax. Funds generated from this tax will go to services including safety and hopefully housing for low income people. Small businesses are not targeted. This business tax is long overdue.


Green Gables
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 29, 2022 at 4:59 pm
Green Gables, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Mar 29, 2022 at 4:59 pm

Many years ago (40 or more) a neighbor moved his mining engineering company AND employees, which his dad had started in Palo Alto, to Reno, Nevada because the STATE of California was not friendly to businesses. At least moving large corporations to Austin, Texas and elsewhere has yet to get the attention of the state government. A business tax would have been a good idea in Palo Alto prior to the COVID-19 issue. What is the saying about a dollar short, a day late?


tmp
Registered user
Downtown North
on Mar 29, 2022 at 7:17 pm
tmp, Downtown North
Registered user
on Mar 29, 2022 at 7:17 pm

Whine, whine, whine. This business tax should have been passed years ago. We are the only city that doesn't have one. The businesses around here already pay more in rents to be here and from the sound of it the business tax will be low for years to come. It is beyond the correct time for the business community to step up to pay for the services that it uses daily and in some areas more than residents. Step up and pay what you should have been for a long time.


BobH
Registered user
Palo Verde
on Mar 30, 2022 at 9:16 am
BobH, Palo Verde
Registered user
on Mar 30, 2022 at 9:16 am

I will vote NO for using the utility profit to go into the general fund to pay for basic city services.

Instead that money should be used improve the power distribution infrastructure so we can meet the cities goal to reduce emissions. This will require a lot of investment in power infrastructure. This includes a second high power line into the city, updates to the distribution network, new transformers that can carry higher loads, EV charging stations, and increasing the rate of putting power lines underground.

Using this money to pad the general fund is not a good use of these funds.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 30, 2022 at 10:06 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Mar 30, 2022 at 10:06 am

I too will vote NO to using the utility money to pay for basic services. It's absolutely shameful that the city couldn't come up with a clean proposal for a business tax after YEARS of ripping us off for $20,000,000 each and every year.

And color me shocked that business "leaders" object to paying their fair share when commuters have outnumbered us by at least 4:1 for years and shifting all the costs to US.


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 30, 2022 at 10:15 am
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Mar 30, 2022 at 10:15 am

The affirmation of sending utility fees to City general fund is very wrong.

As it is, we are unable to reduce our utility bills significantly other than not using most of the utilities. However, some charges are unable to be reduced. As an example, we cannot put a vacation hold on our garbage pickup so if we are away for a month we still pay full fees? Is that fair? If we are away for a month we are likely using very little gas, electricity and water and producing no garbage, yet we still pay. Likewise, if we reduce our garbage down to one can per month due to recycling, reusing and composting, we still get charged for a weekly pickup of the back can? Where is the incentive to reduce waste when we still get charged even if we don't put the black can out until it is full?

Now it could be argued that our utilities charge is a tax since it cannot be reduced (except by using a small black can which most homes already do). Since excess funds are transferred to the general fund, it sounds even more like a tax.

I would say vote no on this.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 30, 2022 at 11:45 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Mar 30, 2022 at 11:45 am

I'm not sure the affirmation is very strong given the consistent problems with responding to city surveys, the inability to change our passwords, the lack of customer service / response from the city when complaining...

But hey, they think they can provide customer service for a fiber-to-the-home network that can compete with the big boys.

Correct me if I'm wrong but it seems our "leaders" are smoking that old substance that they don't want in our borders in spite of the overwhelming vote in support of it that would help our city finances...


Annette
Registered user
College Terrace
on Mar 30, 2022 at 11:47 am
Annette, College Terrace
Registered user
on Mar 30, 2022 at 11:47 am

Agree this should have been done years ago, but it wasn’t. This, and the staggering jobs:housing imbalance are the legacy of past Councils that had a majority that favored developers and big business regardless of impact on residents (particularly those with “normal” income) and small retail. Now this Council is stuck addressing the messes created by preceding Councils.

We should have a business tax but not like this. Timing is terrible and the plan to let revenue flow to the general fund is, too. Promises are too easily broken. And we still have an enormous pension obligation. What’s to keep the funds from being used to meet the pension obligations and projects future Councils value instead of specific (and chronic) critical needs such as improving the power grid and affordable housing?

It is harder to pass a specific tax but taxes should be hard to pass. If a specific tax passes, that tax has wide support. A general tax can pass with “just enough” support which these days can be bought with slick mailers and a targeted campaign.



Nayeli
Registered user
Midtown
on Mar 31, 2022 at 6:31 pm
Nayeli, Midtown
Registered user
on Mar 31, 2022 at 6:31 pm

I really wish that there was a way to cap the taxation in this state. It's like the state and many localities are making the effort to chase away businesses (and tax-paying employees) from this state.

When all things are considered, I suspect that this state has the highest overall per capita tax rate in the country.


Nayeli
Registered user
Midtown
on Mar 31, 2022 at 6:33 pm
Nayeli, Midtown
Registered user
on Mar 31, 2022 at 6:33 pm

By the way, I was called by a pollster about "issues concerning our community." I think that it was for this business tax increase. The questions were very puzzling, fuzzy and ambiguous.


Rob
Registered user
Midtown
on Mar 31, 2022 at 9:12 pm
Rob, Midtown
Registered user
on Mar 31, 2022 at 9:12 pm

This week the Post headline described how Palo Alto was lagging behind with the economic recovery compared to other surrounding cities. The very next day the the headline was about the approval by the Palo Alto council to put a business tax on the ballot??? This will just perpetuate the anti-business climate that prevails in Palo Alto that's why after 35 years of being suffocated by every fee and regulation I sold my business and got out like many others PA vacancy rate @ 14.1 % leading the valley. I would like to know who conducted the study that showed residents in favor of the illegal utility tax transfer to the general fund? I can't wait until it goes on the ballot the city is in for a rude awakening because you can't tax yourself out of Pension purgatory and blame business for all the problems. As a 59 year resident I've seen it all.


Larry
Registered user
Downtown North
on Apr 4, 2022 at 11:30 am
Larry, Downtown North
Registered user
on Apr 4, 2022 at 11:30 am

I was surprised to learn from my friend at CPAU that they have a paid senior staffer working full time to get the Utilities Transfer measure passed. This makes it seem like the City is less interested in representing its residents' wishes than manipulating them.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 4, 2022 at 1:29 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Apr 4, 2022 at 1:29 pm

@Larry, that's absolutely outrageous. Write City Council. Write the City Manager. Write letters to the Editors.

I'm so tired of them stealing $20,000,000 from us each and every year and STILL not opening the libraries, short-changing Animal Services so each new pet owner has to spend $1,000 to spay/neuter their animals AND still not having full hours at Animal Services.

Re other cities recovering so much faster than Palo Alto, maybe that's because they're not office parks dependent on the commuters who over-run us. Maybe it's also because they ignore resident-serving businesses while allowing companies with their own cafeterias to destroy nearby restaurants.

Anyone else been to First Friday in Los Altos? They have music from 6-9 with lots of musicians/bands playing on both Main and State Streets. Who organized it? The owner of the Nature Gallery who left PA for Los Altos and is happily thriving there rather than fighting the T&C landlord! Both streets were mobbed and the restaurants and stores were hopping!

Anyone else been to the Weds. night market in Menlo Park? Who organized it? The owner of Bistro Vida.

And what does our fair city do for merchants like that? Less than NOTHING. It ignores them and forces residents to campaign against the destruction of resident-serving businesses by the landlord right at the end of the pandemic when our highly paid staff couldn't even define MEDICAL/Retail!




Annette
Registered user
College Terrace
on Apr 4, 2022 at 9:33 pm
Annette, College Terrace
Registered user
on Apr 4, 2022 at 9:33 pm

Wait, what? Larry, are you saying that OUR money is being used to LOBBY for the transfer measure? Isn't that illegal? That's the same as lobbying against the best interests of your rate payers. And this from a utility that has a queue of residents waiting for their installed solar equipment to be turned on. Priorities are off here.


JS1
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 6, 2022 at 8:23 pm
JS1, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Apr 6, 2022 at 8:23 pm

The objection to the proposed business tax is the EXORBITANT amount of business tax that our dear City Council members have in their sights.

Most of our adjacent cities charge a very nominal business tax. Mtn. View charges approximately $10/employee. Sunnyvale charges approximately $47/employee. Fremont charges $129/year per business. Santa Clara charges $15/employee. San Jose charges $45/employee.

For a business having approximately 50 employees, it would take about 15,000 sf of space to house these employees. In San Jose, a business having 50 employees would be charged an annual business tax fee of approximately $2,250/year. This fee is on the higher end of the price scale. Palo Alto is considering imposing a business tax fee of somewhere near $0.15 to $0.20 per sq. ft. of building area PER MONTH. On a 15,000 sf building located in Palo Alto, a business would have to pay in the range of $27,000 to $36,000 PER YEAR!!

The amount of business tax proposed by Palo Alto is approximately 10X higher than the amount of business tax charged by peer cities. This I’d ridiculous beyond belief. I will move my business out of Palo Alto on Day 1 if this goes through.

The real problem with Palo Alto City Council is not the lack of incoming revenues; instead it is their inability to spend the revenues they have efficiently.


Citizen
Registered user
College Terrace
on Apr 6, 2022 at 10:47 pm
Citizen , College Terrace
Registered user
on Apr 6, 2022 at 10:47 pm
Citizen
Registered user
College Terrace
on Apr 6, 2022 at 10:48 pm
Citizen , College Terrace
Registered user
on Apr 6, 2022 at 10:48 pm

No tax. Live within your means, like the rest of us have to do.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 7, 2022 at 12:44 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Apr 7, 2022 at 12:44 am

@Annette, they won't call it LOBBYING; they'll call it Community Putreach or Communications while patting themselves on the back.


Mitt Romney: Corporations are people, my friend.

Palo Alto: Residents are businesses, my friend

* the city's attempt to redefine a business tax as the illegal practice of overcharging utility customers -- aka RESIDENTS -- $20,000,000+ a year

* $200,000++? and benefits for a NEW SENIOR staffer to lobby us FULL TIME that taxing us is better than the business tax

No doubt that staffer will do self-serving loaded polls that still don't work correctly showing all residents are strongly support taxing ourselves instead of businesses to fund more bureaucrats, more consultants. more pension liabilities that will require cutting more services to residents.

What a racket!



Annette
Registered user
College Terrace
on Apr 8, 2022 at 8:43 am
Annette, College Terrace
Registered user
on Apr 8, 2022 at 8:43 am

Attention Voters: we've got an end run going on here. Transferring funds from the utility to the general fund was deemed to be an ILLEGAL tax. That is the result of a lawsuit that the City LOST.

Now the City wants voters to approve that practice AND approve a business tax to feed the General Fund. Double whammy. And kinda dirty business. Coffers low? Increase utility fees! Unfunded pension obligations drawing too much from the General Fund? Increase utility fees!

Why is it that Palo Alto needs to feed the General Fund with both a new business tax and affirmation of the funds transfer? Poor management? Over spending? Failure of past Councils to pursue a reasonable business tax at a time that wasn't as uniquely challenging as this?

And what's to assure that the City spends the revenue from the tax on the very needs that will be used to encourage a yes vote? Answer: nothing.

The City's consultant says there's a "sizable group" of voters who will vote to approve both measures. I can hardly wait to read the ballot measures. Some clever wordsmith will present these measures to be great, reasonable, and necessary. The utility transfer shouldn't even be on the ballot; simultaneously going after that and the tax is astounding. And an indication that the City's fiscal house is not in order.


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