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Smart Voter
Alameda County, CA February 7, 2012 Election
Measure A
Sewer Surtax
City of Piedmont

2/3 Approval Required

Fail: 2000 / 50.6% Yes votes ...... 1,949 / 49.4% No votes

See Also: Index of all Measures

Information shown below: Official Information | Impartial Analysis | Arguments | Tax Rate Statement | Full Text

Shall Chapter 20F be added to the Piedmont City Code providing for a special Municipal Sewer Surtax, as more specifically set forth in Ord. 699 N.S. which is on file with the Piedmont City Clerk?

Official Sources of Information

Impartial Analysis from City Attorney
The proposed sewer surtax would secure a ten-year stream of additional revenue to meet requirements imposed on the City of Piedmont under Orders of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB), as well as to undertake significant new tasks for the maintenance and rehabilitation of the City's sewer system. Surtax revenue would be deposited into the City's Municipal Sewer Tax Fund, and, in accordance with existing law, could be used in either of the City's sanitary sewer or storm sewer systems.

Wastewater generated within the City is collected in approximately 50 miles of sanitary sewer pipelines. Since 1995, the City has undertaken a succession of construction projects to rehabilitate its sewer infrastructure, and as of the second quarter of 2011, had completed work on 14 of 23 sub-basins and almost 60% of the system's piping.

In 2000, the voters adopted a municipal sewer tax to pay for the maintenance, construction, repair and operation of all sewer facilities and appurtenances in the City. Although revenue from the sewer tax has enabled the City to accomplish much of the work described above, the City requires additional revenue to complete work on the remaining 9 sub-basins and meet new stringent obligations under the EPA and RWQCB Orders, with the goal of achieving a fully rehabilitated sanitary sewer system within the next 8-10 years.

The proposed surtax represents an approximately fifty percent increase over the City's 2011/12 sewer tax.

If passed, the measure would authorize the Council to levy the sewer surtax annually for a period up ten years, after which the surtax would expire. The surtax rate schedule described above could be adjusted annually to account for increases or decreases to the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

Prior to levying the special surtax each year, the City Council would be required to hold a noticed public hearing. After hearing from the public, the Council could impose a surtax in any amount up to the maximum limits described above, adjusted for CPI, or none at all, as necessary to meet the requirements of the EPA and RWQCB and the City's own Sewer System Management Plan.

The sewer surtax ordinance was unanimously recommended to the City Council by the 2011 Municipal Tax Review Committee and placed on the ballot by a unanimous vote of the City Council on October 3, 2011. This ordinance requires a two-thirds vote of the voters to become effective.


League of Women Voters Sponsored Pros and Cons Presentation and Candidate Forum

  • KCOM Broadcast Schedule - The TV Schedule shows times of the rebroadcasts of the Piedmont LWV Election Forum of 1-12-12. The Forum featured Pros and Cons on Measure A, The City Sewer Surtax, presented by the authors of the arguments in the Sample Ballot. The Forum also featured the candidates for Piedmont City Council and Piedmont School Board as they presented their ideas and goals and answered questions posed by members of the audience.
News and Analysis

Piedmont Civic Association (PCA)

The Piedmonter The Piedmont Patch
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Arguments For Measure A Arguments Against Measure A
In 2000, Piedmont residents approved a tax which has funded the maintenance, operation, and upgrade of our sewer system. In fact, Piedmont has been improving its aging sewer system for nearly two decades, a project now 60% complete.

Since 2000 the regulatory requirements on the City have increased, culminating with a 2011 EPA Order requiring additional rehabilitation, reporting and monitoring of the sewer system. After examining these requirements and Piedmont's ability to pay for them, the Municipal Tax Review Committee (MTRC), an independent committee of Piedmont residents, unanimously recommended a temporary, ten-year, 50% increase to the sewer tax.

The MTRC reported : "Based on a thorough analysis of the ongoing requirements to renovate and upgrade the City's sewer system, maintain current services and comply with court orders and regulatory requirements, the MTRC recommends that the Sewer Tax be assessed in a manner outlined in this report... MTRC recognizes that this recommendation will represent a fifty percent increase (50%) of the Sewer Tax currently levied. This increase ("Surtax") is necessary to meet legal and regulatory obligations that the City must satisfy... The MTRC recommends that the Sewer Project be continued to ensure that the City satisfies all legal and regulatory obligations. Failure to comply will prove more costly than a well-planned effort to continue to improve the City's sewer system + a project that is well under way."

A vote for Measure A is a vote to fulfill Piedmont's legal and ethical responsibilities to maintain a clean and healthy San Francisco Bay region. By continuing Piedmont's impressive record of improvement to our sewer system a vote in favor of Measure A is also a vote that makes economic sense and ultimately will save money for Piedmont and its residents.

Please Vote Yes on Measure A

s/ Dean Barbieri, Mayor
s/ John Chiang, Vice Mayor
s/ Valerie Matzger, Former Mayor
s/ Michael Rancer, Chair, Municipal Tax Review Committee
s/ Bob McBain, Member, Municipal Tax Review Committee

Rebuttal to Arguments For
This tax increase is not necessary to meet our legal and ethical obligations. Piedmont is in full compliance and not subject to any EPA penalties. The EPA is requiring a sewer replacement/monitoring schedule of East Bay cities that Piedmont is already well ahead of. The final Administrative Plan will only require Piedmont to have a ten year plan to continue its sewer rehabilitation and implement new monitoring. The EPA is not requiring accelerated mainline replacement. All present and future EPA requirements can be accomplished with the existing sewer tax.

The City of Oakland is the only City in the region cited by EPA for compliance failure. Oakland and Piedmont sewers are interconnected. Oakland's (population 390,724) inability to comply means Piedmont's (population 10,667) exemplary compliance efforts have had negligible consequence towards cleaning up the Bay.

This 50% increase is for 10 years. Your total sewer tax will be $708 to $1275 with annual CPI adjustments. Residents can put those funds to better use. Starting in 2012 parcel taxes will no longer be deductible including the Sewer, City Services and School taxes. Piedmonters are now required to test their sewer laterals at time of sale or remodel with likelihood of replacement at significant cost. In total this is an increasing financial burden to residents. The 50% sewer tax increase brought on by the accelerated sewer replacement is a significant and unnecessary expense.

Reject Measure A. Use the money for home sewer lateral replacement and TO SUPPORT THE SCHOOLS.

s/ Rick Schiller, Piedmont Resident

Since 1995 Piedmont has replaced 60% of its sewer system. Continuing at the current pace will complete the work by 2023. The Municipal Tax Review Committee plan will advance completion to 2018, well ahead of most East Bay cities. The City is also implementing a new monitoring program as required by Stipulated Orders. By rejecting this 50% increase and using thecurrent sewer tax, the required monitoring programs can be implemented. Piedmont property values are a result of well maintained infrastructures, excellent safety services, outstanding schools and plentiful recreational facilities. Piedmonters value and wish to protect the environment; it is unnecessary to rush sewer system replacement.

The EPA requires testing of new sewer mains and your sewer lateral. The lateral testing is triggered at sale and remodels, plus there are other ongoing monitoring programs that detect residential lateral leaks. If your lateral fails the tests, and many will, the required replacement cost amounts to an indirect tax to homeowners starting at $3000.

Later this year we will be asked to renew both the Municipal Services and School Parcel Taxes. We have some of the highest property taxes in the state, and unquestionably the highest School Tax. Yet generous residents continue to donate significantly to our excellent schools. The important school donations will diminish if family budgets are further burdened by this 50% sewer tax increase. Ultimately this tax increase may shift needed donations from education to sewers.

Piedmonters can continue to honor the environment and maintain a prudent financial balance for the various needs that keep Piedmont great. Continuing the sewer rehabilitation program at a moderate pace will allow additional funding for education, and be a good balance for those on a fixed income. Vote no on this initiative and send a check to the Annual Giving Campaign instead.

s/ Rick Schiller Piedmont Voter

Rebuttal to Arguments Against

The current sewer tax raises only $2.12 million per year; not enough to cover obligatory debt service (nearly $700,000 per year for the next eleven years), ongoing maintenance(approximately $1.4 million annually), and EPA requirements ($961,000 this year).

There are three remaining phases (Phases V, VI. and VII) to complete the rehabilitation of the remaining 40% of the City's aging sewer system. Without the temporary, ten-year, 50% increase to the sewer tax, the completion of the remaining phases is not possible.mThe completion of the remaining phases is critical to meeting the requirements of the 2011 EPA stipulated order.

Unless we want to stop maintaining our sewer system, or go into default on our existing loans, or risk violating the EPA stipulated order, we have very little choice except to approve the temporary increase to the sewer tax. The cost of noncompliance could be severe. And if we do not act now, the low cost State funding we've enjoyed may no longer be available. Additionally, most Piedmont residents would prefer to move rapidly towards stopping Piedmont's contribution to the pollution of the San Francisco Bay.

In conclusion, fiscal prudence and environmental concerns make it essential that we approve Measure A.

s/ Dean Barbieri, Mayor
s/ John Chiang, Vice Mayor
s/ Valerie Matzger, Former Mayor
s/ Bob McBain, Member, Municipal Tax Review Committee

Tax Rate Statement from City Attorney
The proposed surtax represents an approximately fifty percent increase over the City's 2011/12 sewer tax.

Full Text of Measure A


The City Council of the City of Piedmont hereby ordains as follows:


It is the intent of the City Council of the City of Piedmont in adopting this Ordinance to provide for the ability to raise sufficient funds through a special surtax for the provision of sewer services in Piedmont. This is based on the recommendation of the Municipal Tax Review Committee and in light of the mandate of the EPA Stipulated Order which requires the City to meet all previous requirements under the Cease & Desist Order of the California Regional Water Quality Control Board as well as undertake significant new tasks to maintain and rehabilitate the sewer system. Based on these requirements, it is understood that a substantial continuous source of revenue is required to provide for millions of dollars of replacement costs as well as for ongoing sewer maintenance. This special tax shall be in addition to the existing sewer tax levied in Chapter 20E of the City Code.


Chapter 20F is hereby added to the Piedmont City Code to read as follows:



For any fiscal year commencing on or after July 1, 2012, the City Council shall determine what the total expenses will be required for compliance with sewer monitoring and maintenance requirements as issued by the California Regional Water Quality Control Board and the Environmental Protection Agency in Administrative Order No. R2-2009-0084, the requirements of the Stipulated Order for Preliminary Relief No. C09-05684 RS, as well as the proper maintenance, construction, reconstruction, repair and operation of all the sewer facilities and appurtenances within the City, it may levy a special surtax for such fiscal year on each parcel of real property within the City in a manner provided herein. This is a surtax for special governmental purposes and the funds derived from such special surtax shall be limited to the uses set forth in this Section 20F.1.


Each year concurrent with the adoption of the annual budget, the City Council will determine the total amount of expenditures necessary to meet the requirements of the orders listed in Section 20F.1. This shall be the maximum amount of funds to be derived from the surtax authorized by this Ordinance for such year.


After determining the total amount of surtax to be raised under Section 20F.2, the City Council shall apportion said amount among the parcels of real property within the City not exempted by law or exempted pursuant to Section 20B.12, as follows:

This surtax shall be assessed separately and in addition to the Municipal Sewer Tax levied under Chapter 20E of the City Code.


The foregoing surtax rate schedule shall apply for the 2012/2013 tax year commencing July 1, 2012, and ending on June 30, 2013. For each tax year thereafter commencing with the 2013/2014 tax year, the foregoing surtax rate schedule shall be adjusted as follows:

An amount equal to the percentage increase or decrease in the Consumer Price Index for all Urban Consumers (All items) (Base Year 1994 = 100) for San Francisco-Oakland, California, as published by the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, for the period from December 1999 to December of the fiscal year immediately prior to the year in which the percentage adjustment will apply, multiplied by the specific surtax rate in the foregoing Maximum Sewer Surtax Rate Schedule. For purposes of example only, if the maximum surtax rate for a single family resident parcel of 4,000 square feet is $235.00, and the Consumer Price Index for December 2012 is 100 and for December 2013 is 106, the increase of 6 is a 6% increase, meaning an additional maximum surtax of $14.10 for the 2014/2015 fiscal year or a total maximum surtax of $249.10 for such fiscal year.

The records of the Alameda County Assessor as of March 1 of the fiscal year immediately preceding the fiscal year in which the special taxes are payable shall determine whether or not any particular parcel is unimproved for purposes of this Ordinance. All improved parcels which are located entirely within the City of Piedmont shall be subject to the special taxes assessed pursuant to this Chapter 20.F. In addition, on improved parcels which are located partially within the City of Piedmont, all such parcels whose residents are eligible to register to vote in Piedmont and/or all such parcels which are eligible to receive services from the City of Piedmont pursuant to the 911 Emergency System as of March 1 of the fiscal year immediately preceding the fiscal year in which the special sewer taxes are payable shall be subject to the special taxes assessed pursuant to Chapter 20.F. Each parcel shall be taxed pursuant to this Chapter 20.F according to its actual use as of March 1 of the fiscal year immediately preceding the fiscal year in which any such special sewer surtax is payable.


Prior to levying a special surtax under this Ordinance in any fiscal year, the City Council shall conduct a public hearing on the proposed surtax. Such hearing may be conducted simultaneously with a hearing relating to the annual budget for the fiscal year in which the general surtax is to apply. Notice of such hearing shall be posted on the official bulletin board at City Hall at least 10 days prior to the hearing. All of the information and material which the City Council intends to consider at such hearing and the proposed amount of surtax to be raised shall be made available to the public by being on file in the office of the City Clerk for at least 10 days prior to said hearing. Following said hearing, the Council may adopt a resolution fixing the total amount of the special sewer surtax to be raised.


The City Council may elect to have any special surtax authorized under this Chapter collected either by the City or in the alternative by the Tax Collector of the County of Alameda. If the services of the Tax Collector of the County of Alameda are elected, the special surtax may only be included on the annual tax bill sent out by such Tax Collector and charges made by such Tax Collector shall be paid out of general funds deducted from the gross proceeds of the tax.

SECTION 20F.6 FUNDING AND EXPENDING PROCEEDS Proceeds of any surtax levied under this Ordinance shall be deposited into a special Municipal Sewer Tax Fund of the City. In accordance with existing law, funds from this surtax may be used in either the sanitary sewer system or the city storm sewer system as defined in Section of the City Code.


If any provision of this Ordinance or the application thereof to any person or circumstance is held invalid, such invalidity shall not affect any other provisions or applications, and to this end the provisions this Ordinance are declared to be severable.


The authorization to levy a surtax under this ordinance shall expire with the fiscal year 2021-2022 ending June 30, 2022. This Ordinance, or any provision thereof, may only be amended or repealed by approval of a two-thirds majority of the voters voting on the proposition at any initiative or referendum election.

This Ordinance shall be adopted, if approved by a two-thirds majority of the voters voting on the proposition at an election to be held on Tuesday, February 7, 2012, and shall be effective commencing with the fiscal year that begins on July 1, 2012; provided that the provisions of Chapters 20B and 20E in effect on February 7, 2012 shall remain in effect for all purposes relating to the taxes provided thereunder through the dates specified in the operative chapters.


The City Council may from time to time by Council resolution adopt exemptions to the surtax measures set further herein."


This Ordinance shall require passage by a 4/5ths vote of the City Council in compliance with the provisions of Section 53724(b) of the California Government Code, shall be posted at City Hall after its second reading by the City Council for at least 30 days, and shall not become effective unless approved by a two-thirds majority of the voters voting on the proposition at an election to be held on Tuesday, February 7, 2012.

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Created: March 15, 2012 12:45 PDT
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