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Commentary: Measure Z invites community solution

October 30, 2012|By Jerry L. Wheeler

While Measure Z clearly removes a tax, the issue is indeed far from simple. But first, the easier part to understand: Currently residents and businesses alike subsidize the employee portion of our public employee pensions though an assessment included as a part of our property tax bill. This means the city pays their agreed-upon contribution and the employee pays their agreed-upon contribution minus that which we supply through our property tax bill.

There are several issues at work here. The first is that our property taxes should not be going toward anybody's pensions. That's not what they are meant for, and that can be rectified through passage of Measure Z. The second issue is that what the city contributes versus what the employee contributes is no longer fair or sustainable. I know we have legally binding contracts, but we also have cities going broke and people losing jobs because of those contracts and the economy they now exist in. Third, not only is the distribution unfair, we compound the unfairness by further reducing the employee contribution by our subsidy through our property tax assessment.

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Issues one and three can be solved through passage of Measure Z. Passing Measure Z allows for the opportunity to address issue two through open-minded discussion and dialogue concerning the contracts for our public employees. In addition, cities must rethink the way they deliver services to their communities. It isn't about cutting jobs and services. It's about generating new revenues by creating a climate for business growth and expansion. It's about creating new partnerships, public and private, city and city. We all need to be at the table, giving in the short term to reap gains in the long term.

The current cost is $75 to $100 for the average resident homeowner with an assessed value of $500,000. But what we forget is that business is paying the bulk of this added assessment as well. A business owner pays taxes on the assessed value of their property, plus they pay on the assessed value of their inventory as well. That $100 is a drop in the bucket compared to what many or most businesses pay in property taxes, which then dramatically increases the contribution to public employee pensions.

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