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Trust Key Issue in Opposition to Tax -- Letter to Editor

Monterey Herald July 16, 2015


Concerning The Herald’s “Regional parks considers early tax extension” article, the Seaside Taxpayers Association never took a stand on the 2004 parcel tax for the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District. This time they have come out against it since the park district broke its word and failed to use the tax money to improve and develop parklands.

Perhaps a reason the park district needs to extend the tax resides in the unethical behavior of their former general manager, Joe Donofrio, whose pay when he retired was about $349,356 annually. This salary is far higher than that of the governor! If Donofrio lives to 85, he will haul in $6,880,000, courtesy of local taxpayers. This is a big debt load for an agency with only 14-16 employees.

As for the poll, I took the phone survey and it became obvious that it was a “push-poll,” where the pollster weaseled around to get surveyed participants to answer yes.

The biggest problem with this tax is, how can we trust the park district this time? After all, most government agencies have a very poor track record of keeping their word.

— Lawrence Samuels, Vice-Chair, Seaside Taxpayers Association, Carmel


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Monterey regional parks considers early extension of property tax assessment

By Jim Johnson, Monterey Herald

Posted: 07/13/15, 6:07 PM PDT | Updated: 15 hrs ago

Monterey >> Monterey regional parks officials are eyeing an early extension of an existing property tax assessment, and touting a recent voter poll showing more than seven in 10 voters would likely support such a bid.

According to Monterey Peninsula Regional Parks District general manager Rafael Payan, a telephone survey of more than 500 voters in the parks district boundaries indicated 72 percent would vote for a ballot measure replacing the district’s existing assessment, set to expire in 2019, with a parcel tax designed to raise the same amount.

The survey was conducted from June 24-28 by FM3, a polling firm working for district consultant TBWB.

“We are encouraged by the strong support from our community that tells us the region’s residents value open space and access to nature,” Payan said. “Monterey is home to some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world, with pristine beaches and world-famous views. These are part of why we live here are what this measure helps protect.”

The district’s current $24.52 per-parcel tax, approved in 2004, raised more than $1.1 million during the 2014-15 fiscal year, and district officials are considering a ballot measure that would replace the current assessment with a special parcel tax at the same rate.

The revenue represents about a quarter of the district’s $4 million operating budget, and Payan said district officials decided to begin considering an extension of the current assessment now to give themselves “some latitude” to figure out the best time to seek voter approval.

The voter survey envisioned a 15-year special tax, expiring in 2034, with spending overseen by a Citizens Oversight Committee.

Payan said the district’s board would likely make a decision by the fall regarding whether, and when, to place the special tax on the ballot, probably in the June primary or the November presidential primary next year.

Unlike the 2004 assessment, which needed a simple majority approval, the special tax will require a two-thirds approval, according to Payan, which he acknowledged is a “heavy lift.”

Last November, local voters approved every tax measure on the ballot, and Payan said district officials are trying to figure out how to tap that voter enthusiasm for funding services.

Payan said he has already met with the Seaside Taxpayer Association and plans to meet with the Monterey Peninsula Taxpayer Association, both of whom backed the 2004 tax but have more recently expressed displeasure at the district’s $300,000 retirement payout to former general manager Joe D’Onofrio and its purchase of park land that remains inaccessible to the general public.

In an ironic twist, the survey showed that district voters have an even more positive view of county parks, which are struggling financially and don’t bring in enough revenue to support the system. However, new county parks director Mark Mariscal said there are no current plans to pursue a tax measure.

Created in 1972, the district helps maintain local parks and playgrounds, and is charged with helping protect open space, wildlife habitat, beaches, and coastal lands from Marina to Big Sur and Monterey to Carmel Valley. The district is known for helping develop the Monterey Bay Coastal Trail, and purchasing and developing Garland Ranch and Palo Corona regional parks, Locke Paddon Community Park and the Marina Dunes Preserve, among other local parks and preserves.


Last Updated: Jul 17, 15

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