San Luis Obispo residents facing tax fatigue

September 18, 2014
Dan Carpenter

Dan Carpenter

OPINION By SLO COUNCILMAN DAN CARPENTER

On Nov. 4, San Luis Obispo voters will be voting on three local tax/bond measures. A new ½ percent city sales tax (Measure G), a $177 million San Luis Coastal Unified School District bond, and a $275 million Cuesta College bond. No sooner than the economy starts to recover from the recession, each one of these public entities is eager to solicit your resources to support their needs.

Measure G, the new ½ percent sales tax is unnecessary when you consider the addiction to revenue our city has.

The marketing narrative from City Hall contends Measure G is an “extension” of Measure Y instead of calling it the “new tax” that it is. Misrepresenting the truth to ascertain an affirmative vote is deceitful. Nothing in the 2006 original ballot language provides an option to extend the tax when it expires in March, 2015.

In fact, “eight years only” is explicit and unequivocal. Projecting that more than 70 percent of the sales tax comes from consumers who don’t reside in the city cannot be substantiated and is speculative at best.

Fear mongering tactics such as “residents will lose services”, or “capital improvement projects will be diminished” are acts of coercion. An impartial audit done this past spring confirms categorically that spending on capital improvement projects has remained constant the past 15 years, while staffing costs have escalated at an alarming rate consuming the lion’s share of the additional revenue. Proponents should cease with the deceptive portraiture as it continues to insult the integrity of the informed voter.

San Luis Coastal Unified School District is the victim of poor leadership in Sacramento as our state legislature continues to deprioritize spending on public education. How is that California now ranks 49th in the nation in per-student spending on K-12 when Californians pay some of the highest taxes in the country? Our state leaders continue to lose sight of their commitment to quality education by fraudulently mismanaging and squandering our precious resources, hence thrusting the unfair burden onto the backs of our local economies.

Cuesta College is asking district taxpayers to open their wallets to the tune of a $275 million bond for facility repairs and upgrades. Based on my research, the facts simply don’t support the timing of this ask. Overall enrollment has dropped 30 percent during the last four years as have completion rates at both North County and San Luis Obispo campuses.

Course offerings in technical and vocational fields have been eliminated with more concentration on transferable courses to four year universities. A steady growth in students are coming from outside the district to attend Cuesta because of its high transfer rate to Cal Poly and the students do not pay any additional tuition or fees. Only half of all students achieve their goal of a degree, certificate, or transfer to a four year university, and they do so in six years.

The current facilities appear underutilized, underscoring the need for a comprehensive feasibility study to assess the potential for consolidating North County and San Luis Obispo campuses into one location.
Administrative operations should be evaluated when considering the merits of this facilities bond. Over half the district’s full time faculty are paid in excess of $100,000 a year total compensation (more than Cal Poly faculty with PhD’s) while the overall number of classes offered has dropped.

The recent summer session was thrown together, not as a result of long-term planning, but as a relatively last minute effort to garner students to prevent a loss in revenue from the state. Not a good master plan for ongoing sustainable funding and meeting the district’s standard for quality education and student success.

Cuesta recently emerged from the sanctions of accreditation and has spent $120,000 in their bond feasibility preparation and the Foundation has committed another $65,000 to market this bond to the taxpayers. Is this too soon to be asking for an investment of this size when the future of the college was uncertain earlier this year? You’ll have to decide.

The average SLO resident is not only facing these local tax/bond measures in November but also facing higher sewer and water rates, rising utility cost, higher gas taxes, higher personal income tax, raising health care cost, food, transportation and other necessities. How will these measures impact working families, fixed income seniors, students with debt, and the working poor? Property tax bonds in the City of SLO are inherently regressive. With 2/3 of the residences now non-owner occupied, landlords are inclined to pass on any property tax increases directly to their tenants.

As your elected leaders we should be setting an example of sound fiscal oversight. It’s simply a bad time to ask SLO residents to open their wallets. It’s time for all agencies to tighten their belts and live within their means just as our residents have been throughout the recovery.


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34 Comments

  1. guest says:

    Vote NO on the Cuesta bond! The college just can’t responsibly or professionally handle taxpayer money.

    Their problems abound! High administrator, part-time faculty and classified staff turn over. Token race-based hiring practices (Euro Caucasians have the wrong skin color). Several under-performing programs. Some excessively tax-subsidized programs with NO accountability. A campus culture of personal bias and prejudice that many direct toward each other. A history of lawsuits against the college and admin. Etc.

    Don’t waste taxpayer money! NO on the Cuesta Bond!

    (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
  2. Willow says:

    The solution is quite simple:

    Tie the politicians’ salaries to the economy, thereby, making them feel the effects of their decisions where the rest of us feel it – in their pocketbooks.

    Grossly overpaid salaries, benefits, and retirement packages are what eats up most state, county, city and school budgets. The agencies they create with non-elected administrators are just as bad.

    ‘Public servants’ with no legislation to rein them in, will always pay themselves first, will always fund their desires first.
    They will always fund their own outlandish benefits and retirement packages first.
    Children, education, the elderly, veterans, the homeless who are homeless because government regulations shut down their place of work, community needs, etc, be damned.
    It is their personal lives, their dreams and wishes for themselves and their children, that matter most to them. They will pay themselves first.

    They will meet and EXCEED their needs before attending to the needs of the people from whom they extort $$.

    Look at the employee association/union/government contracts your ‘administrators’ sign onto for which YOU are responsible – and once signed on, these are NOT easy contracts to get out of, and VERY EXPENSIVE to pay out and be free of – so they’ve got you by the balls:
    Most states, counties, cities and towns have to put out an additional 40%+ for benes and retirements from the base salary. So when your ‘administrators’, police, fire departments, schools, are already giving themselves 2x, 3x, 4x the average salary of their constituents, remember to add on an additional 40% to get the real cost to you.

    Now you tell me what is it that all these government agents are doing that is so much more worthy than what you contribute to society?

    The farmer is providing a service – they provide food required for life.
    The construction worker is providing a service – building shelter from the elements for people.
    The health care giver is providing a service – helping people be healthy so they can live productive lives.
    The artists is providing a service – turning plain, ugly items into something pleasing and perhaps even usable.
    The recycler is providing a service – keeping resources from being wasted.

    All these vocations are contributing valuable components to society. Yet look at the wage, benefits, and retirement discrepancies between what they receive, and what a government janitor gets.

    Until The People pass legislation that controls what government agents give themselves, that rightfully belongs to The People, because they got it from The People, you will have poverty, elites, and never ending tax increases.

    I’ve suggested before, and I’ll suggest it again – make the salaries of elected officials tied to the economy – they can get no more than the median income of the constituents in their districts. That way, when their decisions improve the economy of their constituents, they get a raise with the rest of the community, and when their decisions prove fatal to the community’s economy, they get a decrease, just like the rest of us.

    WAKE UP and realize that the people on the government payroll aren’t any better than you, and if you look at the headlines, they’re just as corruptible as you, so STOP TREATING THEM AS IF THEY’RE BETTER THAN YOU. THEY DON’T DESERVE A BETTER LIFE THAN YOU. STOP GIVING THEM ACCESS TO BE CORRUPTED. Especially if it’s a friend of yours – don’t keep them in office – do them a favor and vote them out BEFORE they get corrupted.

    There are very few government jobs that should be held for more than 5 years.
    Make that into law – all government positions cannot be held more than 5 years by the same person. Period.
    It will induce more people to pay attention to their government since they will have a greater opportunity to work for it, and it will spread The People’s money to more people.
    Most government jobs are learned within 6 months to 1 year. After that, the annual cycle kicks in, so there’s no need to have ‘lifers’ on the government payroll. That’s a deceptive, manipulating myth to keep the monopoly over YOUR MONEY among a few.

    Besides, ever notice how government agencies are actually emasculating society? What do we need that for? Example:
    A community forms and forms a volunteer fire department. Great. There’s a fire, the property owner, neighbors, and volunteer firefighters come together to help put it out. Everyone goes home feeling good they were a part of doing something good for another, and for the community.
    One day they decide to get a paid standing fire department. All of a sudden, since that day, the homeowner is no longer considered capable of putting out a fire on his own property. Neighbors are no longer ‘allowed’ to assist in putting out the fire. People no longer come together to help each other out.
    Nope. All of a sudden, all those capable people who could come together to do some good, are no longer ‘allowed’ to do anything but sit on the sidelines and be treated as stupid, ignorant in-the-way idiots – by the government agents who’s livelihood are supported by the ‘public’ they treat as incapable.
    You have just emasculated yourselves and the people of your community.

    People need to seriously start rethinking what kind of society they are creating with all these government agencies that disdain, use, and emasculate the very people they are created to serve, the very people that support their lives.

    Wake up, Amerika – you’ve become a nation of not just ignorant, mindless sheeple, but pansies as well, and are blowing it big time.

    (6) 10 Total Votes - 8 up - 2 down
  3. slomike says:

    “Projecting that more than 70 percent of the sales tax comes from consumers who don’t reside in the city cannot be substantiated and is speculative at best.” What a throwaway sentence. If someone from Bakersfield enjoys SLO enough to cough up 70%, okay 50%, of the money to keep the streetlights on why would you turn it down? How many lattes would a local have to skip to come up with his 30-50%?

    (-12) 12 Total Votes - 0 up - 12 down
    • mkaney says:

      Why should I skip any lattes so that city employees can have more of them at my expense?

      (12) 20 Total Votes - 16 up - 4 down
  4. NorthCountyGuy says:

    Get rid of the fraud,waste and abuse in local government. Make officials accountable for their actions.

    (14) 20 Total Votes - 17 up - 3 down
  5. SamLouis says:

    I almost vomited today when I saw a posted re-election sign for the current mayor of SLO…

    (22) 28 Total Votes - 25 up - 3 down
  6. SamLouis says:

    If Cuesta College was ever legitimately evaluated from a cost accounting and facilities standpoint, I don’t believe most voters would vote for the current bond solicitation.

    Most know something about Cuesta’s humble beginnings in former WWII army buildings on a former chunk of Camp SLO. Few seem to know how the current campus was funded — by massive construction/property improvement taxes paid by PG&E when it built Diablo Canyon.

    In no uncertain terms, Cuesta grossly overbuilt. It built far more buildings then it needed with utilization rates far lower than they should be. Cuesta then made another huge error when it added even more capacity with its North County Campus. Even today there is talk of a South County Campus somewhere in the Five Cities. All these buildings cost $$$ to operate and maintain.

    Cuesta struggled through the leadership of Marie Rosenwasser where it built even more unneeded structures including an infamous performing arts center that cost millions. One cannot help but wonder where Cuesta’s Board of Trustees was during this period?

    Along the way either through ignorance or a “plan”, Cuesta choose to defer building maintenance. Now we are told of millions of dollars in needed repairs. Why wasn’t the alarm bell sounded when the costs were originally deferred over the years? Also, are all the building even needed or can some simply be mothballed for the future?

    Cuesta finance and oeprations need looking into and it needs to find a way to charge out-of-county students (using Cuesta as a means to get into Cal Poly) a fee (make them the same as Cal Poly which is already a great bargain) before it gets any more local taxpayer money.

    SLO County has state legislators. Has anyone from Cuesta spoken to any of them about a bill that might help community colleges who find themselves being used by out-of-county people as a means to get into a 4 year school?

    (21) 25 Total Votes - 23 up - 2 down
  7. Perspicacious says:

    Dan, one of the best articles I have read in along time! Every “little” increase hurts. I get so sick of hearing people say, “It is only a small increase”. Does anybody remember when the sales tax was 6%? So looooong ago…before the age of “small increases”. I hate this state, I hate tax raisers, I hate [most] government officials, I hate environmentalists wacko Green fanatics. You people suck!

    Whew! I feel better. thanks for listening…

    (30) 36 Total Votes - 33 up - 3 down
    • roberttorrance says:

      agree……very well written, sound in judgment and fact….SLO GOVERNMENT, and ESPECIALLY the POLICE, have been living off taxing wealthy bay area parents for their children’s education and living via monopoly and force….while local residents who make far less than the government pay the exorbitant price as well……

      (22) 26 Total Votes - 24 up - 2 down
  8. Laughlines says:

    Clearly, the City needs another way to raise revenue. I suggest a serendipitous confluence of issues. Namely, the need for revenue and the Laguna Lake dredging. Wikipedia says the elevation of SLO is 233 feet. Therefore, let us dredge Laguna Lake to a depth of 500 feet, and continue the excavation along the creek out to the ocean, creating a canal some 500 feet wide, allowing the passage of the largest ocean-going vessels. We will also build a double or triple-track extension from the railroad over to the lake, and create a deep water ocean port capable of handling any vessel. I think we should entice energy companies to build a refinery and/or (preferably and) a LNG terminal. Also, we should try to get the Navy to station a carrier or some submarines there. Finally, we’ll add a four lane extension from Highway 101 over to the Lake. We shall rename it the Laguna Lake Military-Industrial Complex. Since we’ll have large numbers of sailors, truckers, and railroaders in town, we’ll legalize gambling and prostitution, and build a world-class red light district along LOVR. I mean, we should try to put Amsterdam to shame with how freaky our SLO sex district will be. Imagine the revenues generated by this visionary project. Some naysayers will object, of course, but they’re of the same ilk that poo-pooed the Transcontinental Railroad, the Wright Brothers and the Manhattan Project. If we dream big, we can do great things.

    (8) 16 Total Votes - 12 up - 4 down
    • roberttorrance says:

      dumbest article i have ever read….based on libtard logic that we cant care for ourselves and government needs more revenue….we need less government PERIOD>

      (-3) 19 Total Votes - 8 up - 11 down
    • mkaney says:

      Yeah the problem with your logic here is that none of this money is going to be spent on great things.

      (2) 6 Total Votes - 4 up - 2 down
  9. kettle says:

    “Measure G, the new ½ percent sales tax is unnecessary when you consider the addiction to revenue our city has.”

    So true, and yet the city of SLO never finished the sidewalk, curb etc behind fire station #1 and then built the command center and still did nothing (just 1 example).

    https://www.google.com/maps/@35.2700579,-120.6549618,3a,75y,296.26h,66.62t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1stQ3BO3U2US8L-RpDaksPlA!2e0?hl=en

    (16) 20 Total Votes - 18 up - 2 down

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