Marin IJ

Article Last Updated: 11/10/2005 07:17 AM

Town's officials haven't given up on services tax

Joe Wolfcale
Marin Independent Journal

San Anselmo voters' rejection of a $250 municipal services tax may simply mean the Town Council will have to make a better pitch in another election, says one newly elected official.

"Maybe the residents didn't see that there were any problems," said Ian Roth, who - with absentee ballots still to be counted - apparently won election on Tuesday to the Town Council. "I think we'll need to work on public perception, do a better job of educating the public and tinker around the edges a bit to make it easier to sell."

Roth and other town officials said they were surprised by the outcome of Measure B, the only money measure to be rejected by Marin voters Tuesday. The proposed tax was supported by 55.4 percent of San Anselmo voters, well short of the required 66.7 percent needed for approval.

"It was a shock, for sure," said Roth, who served on the town's Fiscal Advisory Committee that studied the town's financial difficulties. "We'll probably need to bring it back to the voters in a slightly different form."

Town officials have said over the past several months that a special municipal services tax was the only way they could see the town surviving a financial crunch that has forced reduction of some town services.

Councilwoman Barbara Thornton, who headed the "Yes on Measure B" campaign, said she and others were still uncertain about the next steps.

"We've been so focused on the campaign, it's a little early for us to know for sure," she said. "I think we're still kind of in shock. We have to look very closely at what this really means."

Measure B was touted as a means for the town to bounce back after officials froze eight staff positions, reduced the hours at Town Hall, eliminated raises and training costs and suspended major capital expenditures.

The measure would have required property owners to pay $250 per living unit each year for four years. An existing $78 municipal service tax would be added. Commercial property owners were also slated to be taxed.

Town officials said the financial crunch was brought on by several factors: a weak economy, rising public employee benefits and pensions, a lackluster stock market performance and the loss of $500,000 in vehicle licensing fees over the past two years.

"We have a lot of work to do very quickly," Thornton said. "We've made so many cuts, the next steps are serious. ... We're still trying to figure out what our next steps will be."


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