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In The Open: Rose-colored glasses

Posted: Thursday, Feb 14th, 2013

What’s right for Atascadero is certainly a matter opinion, and of course it depends on what you’re referring to.

Some A-Town peeps grumble a lot about personal liberty, taxes, regulations or the Agenda 21 “Boogie-Man” waiting to take your home away. I just don’t see such problems, but maybe I prefer rose-colored glasses. I do see a problem with unsustainable funding to deal with real problems.

The state did an exceptional job at doing what it felt was necessary to balance its budget, which included diverting funds from local coffers, killing redevelopment agencies, squeezing funds from schools and whacking funds from road maintenance accounts. Basically, it left our cities hung out to dry.

They enabled the local citizenry to take matters into their own hands – that is, tax themselves to cover the cost of services needed at the local level, thus it gave us what we love here in Atascadero — “local control.”

The people of the state collectively responded to school needs and protection services and recently voted in a four-year quarter-cent sales tax — ouch, really? Not. Maybe we should all run to Arizona or Nevada where they have a 6.5-percent average sales tax instead of 7.5 percent. But then you’d have to live there (in a desert) instead of here, but hey you could save a penny on every dollar.

Federal and State income tax rates have been steady, although the “uber-rich” may feel a slight twinge, maybe not. Property taxes have been the same one percent since 1973. State gasoline tax has not gone up since 1994, and the feds haven’t raised it since 1997 — which was raised to cover the cost of leaking fuel tanks — a community problem to fix instead of a private problem? Gas tax is mostly what pays for our roads and other transportation needs.

The unemployment rate for Atascadero is back to its mid-2008 level at six percent. Housing prices and home sales velocity (even exclusive of short sales) has stabilized and is recovering, ever so slowly. Yes, we are still in a fragile recovery period. However, we haven’t raised any type of local tax significantly in a long time. Services and infrastructure are suffering tremendously. We don’t even have a Public Services (e.g. parks and recreation) Department anymore. I hope the crime rate doesn’t go up and that my senior friends are still able to enjoy their quality of life.

I’m all about sustainability in its many forms. We are positioned to consider taking our problems and funding opportunities into our own hands and do what we feel is right for Atascadero. By example, surrounding communities — such as San Luis Obispo City and Paso Robles — have established local sales tax measures voted in by the people which have not chased away business, but have given them the means to take care of local needs. We too can take the responsible, more sustainable road to fixing our problems for schools, police, roads, programs, beautification — give it some thought.

Susan DeCarli has been a resident of San Luis Obispo County for over 30 years, and has worked in the private and public sectors. She is a Cal Poly alumni and is a land use and environmental professional.

For the complete article see the 02-15-2013 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 02-15-2013 paper.

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