Saratoga News

Water district's tax proposal gets support from Saratoga council

By Brian Babcock

September 25, 2012

The Saratoga City Council's support for the Santa Clara Valley Water District's proposed parcel tax hasn't dried up just yet.

Council members, in a 4-1 vote, reiterated their support for the district's Safe, Clean Water and Natural Flood Protection Plan measure at a meeting on Sept. 20. Councilwoman Emily Lo cast the lone dissenting vote.

The council had adopted a resolution in support of the proposed Measure B in June. But council members asked that the topic be brought back up to possibly rescind its support.

The water district has been drowning in criticism over the past couple of months. The increased scrutiny began last month due to a two-word error, along with an incorrect date, that almost cost the proposed parcel tax extension its place on the November ballot.

The Silicon Valley Taxpayers Association filed a lawsuit against the water district, claiming the district board violated the state's open meetings law when it held a special meeting last month to fix the two-word error in the ballot.

If passed, the $543 million tax would continue the existing parcel tax for another 15 years. The tax currently costs $54 for each home and would increase by 3 percent a year.

The water district says the funds raised through the tax will pay for the following:

• Ensure a safe and reliable water supply

• Reduce toxins, hazards and contaminants in waterways

• Protect the water supply and dams from earthquakes and other natural disasters

• Restore wildlife habitat and provide open space

• Provide flood protection to homes, schools and businesses

• Provide safe and clean water in creeks and bays

"It's a shame that there were some things that might not have been right, but it's good you're going forward and trying to fix them," Mayor Chuck Page said to the water district's CEO Beau Goldie and board chairwoman Linda LeZotte, who attended the meeting.

"I know from my time on the VTA board and water commission, these projects can take a lot of time. You're figuring out the designs, the priorities, where the funding is coming from. And if you don't have a proven method of funding on an ongoing basis, then these projects will stall," Page added. "There isn't a city anywhere that could be a city without water. You need to have water.

"So I am absolutely in favor of this measure and think it's the perfect time to do it. There's no better time to start a long-term project than now and knowing where your funding is coming from."

Lo questioned the timing of the extension since the current tax does not expire until 2016. Goldie said that the district is moving forward now because polling numbers showed there was a better chance of it passing now than in 2014, the next time the extension could be put up for a vote.

Goldie added that the water district, including its board of directors, has reduced its spending. He also said the district's "culture of waste" and "disconnectedness"--terms used by councilman Howard Miller--is changing.

LeZotte expressed similar sentiments. She said the new board members, including herself along with Don Gage and Brian Schmidt, are putting new reforms in place.

"There's a new team in town," LeZotte said. "We're moving in the direction of reform and fiscal responsibility. I think the board is headed in the right direction."

This article is also available at the web site of the San Jose Mercury News, here.

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