Atascadero considering sales tax hike

April 21, 2014

atascadero_sign_photoThe Atascadero City Council will consider Tuesday whether or not to put a sales tax increase on the November ballot.

City staff has proposed placing a half cent sales tax measure on the ballot. The ballot initiative would call for a general tax but with direction to primarily use the funds for road maintenance and repair.

Staff is also suggesting alternative language that would direct most of the funds to the roads, while money would also go to parks, storm drains and the city zoo.

If the council were to place a specific tax measure on the ballot, it would require a 67 percent vote in order to pass. A general tax measure requires just a majority vote.

The staff proposal would raise sales tax to 8 percent in Atascadero. Currently, Atascadero is the only city in San Luis Obispo County that does not have an 8 percent sales tax rate.

Staff says the tax measure would raise $1.7 million to $2 million annually.

Four of the five council members must support the measure in order to place it on the ballot.


Wake up Atascadero, this is the same scam that was pulled in SLOTown. They shift monies dedicated for various maintenance, Capital Improvement / Public Improvement Projects to salaries then seek a sales tax increase to back fill those depleted funds. Just look at the ridiculous salaries and benefits in this town – cut salaries, benefits, retirement, vacation accrual then they can come and talk to us. But frankly, they have let the roads and everything else go to get everyone to believe they don’t have the necessary funds to do City business. However, they have enough to pay out huge overtime and vacation accrual pay every time a sacred cow leaves the City.


I have some suggests where to save some money and assist with roads and improve government.

First, look at the City Budget:

Employee Services (COSTS)

City Budget 2013-2014………………..$26,539,040 (100%)

Employee Costs/Benefits……………..$12,412,720 ( 47%)*

City Budget Operations………………..$14,126,320 ( 53%)

* City Manager, Assistant City Manager, Assistant to the Assistant City Manager, 2 Administrative Assistants = 5 positions at a total cost of $641,240.

*Administrative Services Director, Deputy Administrative Services Director, Administrative/Management Analyst, Personnel Specialist, 3 Finance Technicians 1 Account Clerk II = 7 positions at a total cost of $760,690.

*Police Chief, Commander, 5 Sergeants, 7 Corporals, 14 Police Officers, Support Services Supervisor, Support Services Lead Technician, 6 Support Services Technicians, Property Evidence Technician / Specialist, Administrative Assistant = 38 positions at a total cost of $4,652,440.

Now, I have only listed three departments, which all do a great job, but I would like to point out that most of the departments have more chiefs then Indians. Management as no “clerks”, all chiefs, Administration has one “clerk”, and police has no record clerks, administrative clerks, etc. I point this out because with each title of power creates a higher pay scale from management on down.

Let’s not be fooled here, if anyone looked closely at this budget you would be able to see areas where you could save the $1 million to $1.5 million this tax will create. The City spent $60,000 alone to study this. The fact that all the other cities have this tax does not make it right. Look at SLO, they got that extra 1/2% increase IN ADDITION to a new Target, Home Depot, Old Navy, TJ Marx, Bev Mo, Duck Sporting, Olive Garden, etc. and at a recent meeting public works could not name ONE project they used the money for. The money must be designed or it will be wasted on Council Special Projects, bailouts, and employee costs.

The employee issues are many for this City: 1) there are thousands of dollars of unpaid leave duty the employees because in lieu of raises the past several years, employees have accumulated thousands of hours of unpaid leave for approximately $800,000, 2) employees have not had raises in several years and are pushing for raises as they think the economy is recovering. We, the taxpayers can assure them it is not. I have not had a raise in 6.5 years, been told not to expect one in the next 2-4 years and have new taxes and fees of almost 11% coming out of my check, and 3) CALPERS, the retirement program for the employees is recalculating the rates, benefits, etc. and this is costing almost all cities in California big dollars.

The City Council had a “Legislative” budget in 2010-11 of $372,642 which has increased to $ 513,460 in 2013-14,

“Contract” services in 2010-11 of $202 to $36,000 in 2013-14, Chamber of Commerce contribution of $47,977 in 2010-11 to $67,400, Promotions in 2011-12 of $00.00 to $177,290 in 2913-14,

I don’t understand the increases in these Council expenses for a town of 28,000, 4 hotels/motels and no major businesses. Where is the Wal Mart the City spent staff and service resources on? For all the money that council is spending, where are the results? for promotion, business development, etc. Business development – Wal Mart, Trader Joe’s, etc. would bring in the long term sales tax dollars instead of losing businesses like Spencer’s.

Zoo expenditures have gone up from $ 671,584 in 2010-2011 to $869,420 in 2013-14. 2014-15 Budget is proposing another increase to $885,400. This is with memberships, volunteers, etc. At some point the City needs to think about a Countywide assessment for this jewel in out community. We will have to look at affordability over police, fire, roads, etc. services. It is reality whether you own a business, have a home, etc. We all need to be smarter and wiser with our money!


There is no way I can support such an increase, given the fact that the city council allowed Wade McKinney to prance out of Atascadero with a huge payout, including $90,000 for vacation leave that accrued in violation of the personnel rules.

I tried repeatedly to get the council to heed the warning, but they simply stuck their head in the sand.

To top it off, the 2011 Grand Jury reported an unfunded liability of over $880,000 for leave, much of it accrued in violation of the personnel rules.

I promise you that the same city council that took virtually no action in rectifying the problem in a timely manner, will posture and promise that the sales tax increase will be earmarked for streets and things like the zoo.

Sorry, given the city’s history and fiduciary irresponsibility, I just can’t buy it.

Mike Brennler


Why would paying $90K as a buyout be a detriment to paying more sales tax. After all, that is a basic policy of most cities. Just look at the money Paso has paid out over the last few years – over $250K to the ex-Police Chief, thousands of dollars to settle at least 2 other lawsuits stemming from her actions. And no doublt, there are many other examples, in Paso and in other cities in SLO county.

But the voters will never learn – to simply hold them responsible.


That does not justify increasing paying more taxes. Elections, elections, elections. Keep voting the same incompetent people in and you get the same results.

Mr. Holly

This is not the same Council that let McKinney get away with his act. When Fonzi and Kelly got elected things began to get scrutinized a little closer. If I recall it was Fonzi and Kelly who,while on the Finance Committee, actually listened to Mike Brennler and initiated the research on the unfunded vacation leave. Then it was Kelly who found it hidden in the Finance Report at over $1,000,000. Of course you then have O’Malley who is actually the only one left on the council who was there while McKinney was doing his thing. So what was the first thing our great new mayor do when he was elected mayor? He removed Kelly from the Finance Committee. I wonder if O’Malley will take all the credit for this as he does for everything else?

SLOBIRD makes some very interesting comments that people should consider. More taxes and fees? Again, at the upcoming council meeting the fire department will again be requesting their 150% administrative fee for weed abatement. Where is there any justification for any fee like this.


Sorry Mr. Holly. Whereas I may give Kelly a pass I will absolutely NOT give Fonzi a pass. She and her husband Al personify what is wrong in Atascadero politics. They both tried to protect Kelly Gearhart and Wade McKinney and all the while Nero fiddled while Rome burned.

Mr. Holly

I would agree. Unfortunately it looks like Kelly may be the lone wolf out there as others are running on O’Malley’s shirtail.

Kevin 99

I happen to believe in taxes: It is the fee we pay to enjoy the benefits of living in America, being safe, having someone come and put out our fire, prosecuting bad guys, having educated children and keeping communicable diseases at bay.

But when the polling company called me, I told them that I unequivocally would vote “No,” because this is the City Council that told us that WalMart would enrich our community with its tax proceeds and jobs and blah blah blah, and I didn’t buy it then, and I don’t buy it now. So, no new taxes for YOU, City Council.


I agree that some taxes are required to pay for the things we all need as a community; but when additional taxes are requested with only vague promises as to how they will be spent – then NO.

So Astacadero has the final chance to bring a stop to un-ending demand for more tax revenue from every city in this county. Just like any family, a city needs to (and should be required to) live within its means – not keep going for more and more and more.

Jorge Estrada

An 8% tolerance to sales taxe may be a small price to pay for a 0% tolerance to, you fill in the blank.


Attention all Atascadero residents: please look to the south to the city of San Luis Obispo to see what happens when you pass a general sales tax increase: you get more city employees,higher salaries for them and the members of the city council, and the roads remain unpaved, sidewalks still crumble, and with a little luck you’ll get the trash can police and the Neighborhood Wellness Nazis. Don’t get fooled! The city must learn to live within its means like all of usin the private sector do.

If the council can’t get the four of five votes to put it on the ballot, maybe they will take a page from San Luis Obispo’s city attorney and try to find a way around that. If any council is that desperate for money, they definitely should not get it!


Amen! People must wake up to the fact that all government agencies always need more money!


Also look to the north for yet another example of seeing what you get when you just fall in line and give the city rulers more and more of your money. We, in Paso, got stuck with a 1/2% sales tax for the next 12 years (how long will yours be?), Same promises were made about roads wouild get fixed, basic infrastructure would be improved, etc, etc.

Sounds like the City councils and managers all communicate with each other and use the same prediction of dire consequences if a general sales tax increase is not approved.

Will Astacadero voters just follow along with other cities or will they finally wake up and be the first (and only) to plainly require the city leaders to have the ‘gonads’ to put forth a specific tax proprosal and be able to sell that; rather than a general tax that will mostly go for additional salaries and benefits for them.

Wake Up ! ! !


If the streets of Paso get any worse, we will be needing 4 wheel drive vehicles just to get across town.


All tax & fee increases of ANY type should be accompanied by:

1) equal amount of REAL current costs reduction

2) New taxes go to actual services, not existing or future pensions & benefits. Everyone knows what is driving costs and bankruptcies.

If all voters adopted this policy, even if the politicians don’t, it would help.


I’ll vote for any infrastructure tax increase that also permanently reduces pension spending by twice that amount.


With all the big payouts recently to keep those leaving quite and the payouts to come they figure a new tax is the only way to fund them. “General tax but with direction to primarily use the funds for road maintenance” like we haven’t heard this before, double speak for cutting the current road maintenance budget the same amount this tax would bring in so they can funnel more money to “general fund”, the never ending pit of taxpayer money to spend however they want.

Mr. Holly

“Who do you trust baby?” Tellie Savalas had the right question.