Thursday, 20 February 2020

Wiars and Jamison: Vote not on Measure N

In proposing this new tax, the Fire District is being greedy and irresponsible. Maybe the people proposing this new tax can afford it. However, most people in the district cannot. I realize the Fire District wants to buy shiny new trucks and hire their friends. But, punishing the electorate for years of mismanagement is not right or fair. This ballot measure is an attempt to raise taxes by irresponsible and absurd amounts. Despite their claims, the district is not broke and destitute.

Look at the actual numbers, not the propaganda numbers being used by the supporters of this measure. According to the adopted 2018-19 Lake County Budget (*see attached), the North Shore Fire Protection District’s budget is almost $3.5 million dollars. According to the Registrar of Voters Pamphlet, Measure N will raise taxes by over $1.7 million dollars. The fire district wants to increase its income/budget by almost 50 percent!

Here are examples for a single family home. In NICE, the single family home fire tax will INCREASE by 140 percent, LUCERNE by 44 percent, and CLEARLAKE OAKS by 110 percent. Again, this is not acceptable. These examples are only the beginning of the outrageousness.

Let us examine some more specific examples. In Clearlake Oaks the existing “parcel” fire tax for a single family residence is $60 per year. The new tax is proposed to be $126 per year, that is a 110 percent increase in the tax! That means every homeowner will pay double! If you have an in-law rental on your property, that figure climbs to $220.50.

However, that is only the beginning. This tax unfairly places a huge burden on rental units. The existing tax is a “parcel tax,” which means you pay a $60 tax per parcel. If passed, the old parcel tax will become a “tenant tax.” For a duplex, instead of paying $60 for the parcel, you pay $126 for the first apartment unit and $94.50 for the second apartment. That is a total new tax of $220.50. Using simple math, that is 267 percent increase in the tax. (The difference between the proposed new tax and the old tax, divided by the old tax.)

Using the same formula for a 4 unit apartment, the tax increase is whopping 582 percent!

In Lucerne, the existing parcel tax $90. For a single family home, the tax increases 44 percent. For a duplex rental, the tax increase is 145 percent. For a four unit apartment building, the increase is 355 percent.

Every tenant would like to increase their personal income by these percentages. The Fire District needs to get real!

The numbers being used by the fire district are misleading. In one actual example, a landlord will be paying almost $1,000 per year more in taxes. Tenants, if this tax passes, your landlord is going to have to increase your rents to cover the additional costs. With the recent passage of California’s AB 1482, expect a rent increase before the end of the year. Why should the fire district get a 582 percent increase.

The Fire District obviously did not do their homework. Let’s address the impact of California’s AB 1482. After the initial fire tax increase, the Fire District can raise the taxes by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), up to 3 percent. AB 1482 limits rent increases up to 5 percent, plus the CPI. That means the rent increases will be limited to 5 percent. Because, the fire district will take the entire CPI adjustment. Now, add on normal increases for property taxes, the occasional school bonds that voters will approve, increases in other expenses like water, sewer, garbage service, and the landlord could be facing a negative cash flow, even after raising the rents. That assumes the landlord can raise the rent. Despite popular rumor, the rents in the north shore district are not increasing exponentially and most landlords are "mom and pop" landlords. Most landlords struggle under additional tax burdens. We need to encourage more rentals, not tax them more.

In my opinion, the fire district has been mismanaged if they now find themselves in this position after “fifteen years”. Perhaps Fire District management should be removed. How about a Grand Jury investigation into the mismanagement?

We all want a 50 percent increase of our personal income so that we may buy shiny new cars and fix up our homes. However, there is a certain reality.

I propose the North Shore Fire protection District live within their means.

In the meantime:

Vote no new taxes.

Vote no on tax increases up to 582 percent.

Vote no rent increases because of this additional tax.

Vote no on Measure N.

Scott Wiars is a landlord who lives in Clearlake Oaks, California. Teresa Jamison with a rental in Lucerne, California, who lives in Roseburg, Oregon.

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