By Linda Sutter – April 18, 2022
Local governments have been placing sales tax measures on the ballot in response to alleged “budgetary problems.” Such “budgetary problems” are often a result of wasteful or excessive spending by local government officials, including high pension costs and excessive personnel costs. Local governments also like to play budgetary shell games in which they place a sales tax measure on the ballot to fund a politically popular purpose, and if the tax passes, it would enable the local government to free up money from the general fund that can then be spent on the pet projects or programs of local politicians. In our case we were not alerted to Budgetary problems or operating expenses when we voted on Measure R, nope, it was for other issues. And that is the problem.
Sales taxes are very regressive taxes that tend to disproportionately burden the poor. There is often little or no relationship between the amount of increased sales taxes paid and the benefits received by the taxpayer. Local sales tax rate increases create geographical variations in sales tax rates which place local businesses at a competitive disadvantage. Local sales tax increases also result in local governments increasing their reliance on the sales tax as a revenue source, which tends to be an unstable revenue source and also tends to cause local governments to make poor land use decisions in an effort to maximize sales tax revenues.
Sales tax supporters also like to frequently engage in scare tactics to enhance their chances of passing a tax measure. Tax supporters attempt to “scare” voters into supporting a tax increase. Such scare tactics are frequently observed with sales tax measures for public safety, transportation, and public health. Taxpayers should neither tolerate nor be intimidated by such scare tactics. An example of Del Norte County’s Sales tax scare tactic is the following;
“To support vital local services including: providing support for law enforcement for emergency response; repairing potholes and maintaining streets; preparing for and responding to natural disasters and health emergencies; maintaining emergency dispatch services for fire, ambulance, and law enforcement; maintaining jail and criminal justice services; addressing blight and public nuisances; and other general services and infrastructure; shall the measure be adopted imposing a one percent sales tax in the unincorporated area of the county, until ended by voters, providing approximately $1.2 million dollars annually, with citizen oversight and independent audits? “
Sales tax may be unnecessary or too burdensome on taxpayers. Many local governments have incurred substantial cost increases over the past few years in such areas as salary increases, substantial overtime costs, and excessive benefits to public employees. Increased pension costs have been especially acute. Some local governments seek to pass through these costs to taxpayers in the form of higher taxes. such cost increases have become a problem within Del Norte County, and they must be exposed to the voters.
Let’s take a look at some Del Norte County Department Heads and how their annual increases have affected not only outrageous cost to you the taxpayer, but the inability to support an UNFUNDED PENSION LIABILITY OF $54 Million Dollars.
Heidi Kunstal, Del Norte County Community Development department.
*In 2018 Ms. Kunstal made $149,996.54 including benefits.
*In 2019 her services cost county taxpayers $183,394.89 and in 2020 she received yet another raise giving her $201,190.36. 2021 has not been reported as of this date.
Within this three year period Ms. Kunstal’s raises totaled $51,194.32.
How many county workers made $40,000?
And they are using Measure R funds to hire Ms. Kunstal more help?
Lonnie Reyman, Chief of Probation.
*In 2018 Mr. Reyman made $123,238.62
*In 2019 Mr. Reyman received $158,087.03 this is including benefits, and
*in 2020 Mr. Reyman received $62,703.01.
The biggest jump in his raises was from 2018 to 2019 approximately $34,848.41 increase; the 2020 raise was small in comparison.
How many County workers received such lucrative raises? Seems to me they have to fight just to get $15.00 per hour.
Katherine Micks, Del Norte County District Attorney.
DA. Micks pay has stayed relatively the same for the past 3 years with no indication of raises. The variance in her pay appeared to come from OTHER PAY which is not defined and is added along with regular pay and benefits.
*In 2018 Ms. Micks made $153, 394.21.
*In 2019 She made 167,052.11 and
*In 2020 she dropped down to 162,825.08.
2021 was not recorded at this time.
The reason these three individuals are brought up as examples of Department Heads receiving 6 digit incomes is because each one of them wrote a letter to the county explaining how important it was to keep the Measure R sales tax. Unfortunately, when you make 6 digit salaries your opinion kind of goes sideways as an argument to keep Del Norte Taxpayers in debt for eternity.
And remember pension liability is not funded but more on that later.
If a local sales tax passes by a very close margin, or if local taxpayers are otherwise unhappy with a voter approved local sales tax, then a tax reduction or repeal initiative can be pursued under the provisions of Proposition 218. Such local initiatives are generally the only tool taxpayers have to reduce the tax burden within their community since it is rare for local elected officials to voluntarily reduce or repeal taxes once they have been imposed.
In Del Norte County, The Elected Supervisors are having a fit that there are initiatives that will be placed on the ballot to remove the one cent sales tax.
Why do you think that is?
It is because they are only thinking of themselves, their department heads, and could care less about the best interest of the taxpayers? After all, if they were truly concerned about the debt they have created the Department heads would not have $30-50,000 dollar raises.
Del Norte County Department Heads will use scare tactics in order to keep this sales tax that has no sunset date. They will misuse funds, they will add more debt to the pension liability that is not currently funded.
So let’s talk a little bit about pension liability, something Mr. Lopez doesn’t like to discuss in open forum. What does it mean to have an unfunded pension liability?
According to Economic Experts this is not a good sign. In unfunded schemes, no contributions are made to the scheme in advance and no investment fund is built up. Instead the benefits are paid out by the employer when they fall due, alongside the salaries of current employees. This type of arrangement is called ‘Pay As You Go’.
An unfunded pension plan is an employer-managed retirement plan that uses the employer’s current income to fund pension payments as they become necessary. Unfunded pension plans can retard economic growth.
With a funded pension plan, workers’ savings are invested productively in order to pay them a benefit when they retire.
Unfunded public pension plans can lead to poorer public services in the long run by discouraging talented workers from applying for jobs in the public sector.
Has anyone noticed the dire straits that this County is in? Yet who are the ones wanting to keep Measure R?
Answer: The Department heads who make 6 digit salaries.
Chris Howard recently touted at a BOS meeting, “This County is looking up.”
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to drive through Del Norte County/Crescent City and see excruciating Economic Blight. Torn up Roads and streets, and where is our money going? In the pockets of a few.
The Supervisors Tout, “we need to pay more to the Police to get them to stay.”
The problem is not paying them more. The problem is nationwide. No one wants to be a cop anymore due to lack of support and back up, due to the wrong cops being permitted to stay in the force instead of getting rid of bad behavior, and due to lack of legislation enforcing the laws we have.
Measure R is an excessive tax with no sunset date, our county is abusing the tax funds.
Don’t let them use scare tactics to keep this burdensome tax.