By John Paul Valdez
In 2010, the 39 dollar an acre vacant parcel tax was extended to 2020. That was seen as an enormous tax windfall to the city at the time. Now, in failing financial circumstances, the city is reaching out with new taxes or “revenues” by asking the public on a ballot measure to increase the vacant parcel tax from 39 dollars to 370 dollars per acre. On a percentage basis, that’s quite a leap.
The city government would like to contract out Parks and Recreation to the county, and have that tax added to each homeowner’s tax assessment, but it is true that the vacant parcel tax is not part of this other increase in revenue for the city. So let’s concentrate on what the vacant parcel tax means, and what the money is supposed to do for the city.
DHS currently owns its own police department. While this giant increase in taxes is to be set aside for payments to police and fire departments, no mention is made as to whether or not those will be payments to the county or payments supporting our own police department. A bid is being asked for from the county for police services. Certainly all the alternatives should be examined, but the increase in the parcel tax is no guarantee of ownership over contracting out police department services from the county as it stands. It has taken the city a decade to build its own force.
There are those who argue that the parcel tax will discourage development, but that depends on who is holding the land now, who is developing, and whether or not that is the same individual. If you currently hold many acres and see a tenfold increase in holding land you are not developing for lack of funding, you are likely going to sell that land. Anyone buying such a parcel is likely to want to develop it because they surely don’t want big overhead on empty land. Many of us are lucky just to own our home much less worry about being taxed on our vast holdings of vacant land, but development to the area directly impacts home values, quality of life, employment, and a future for DHS.
The real question here is not whether or not the city needs funding. The best analysis is one that includes a long term fiscal plan that has taxes being used for more than services. PS had a rise in the sales tax to make their new Mall happen. That is a visible improvement. The infrastructure of DHS is crumbled and far below that of other Coachella Valley cities. Money should be raised, yes, but then used for what? To pay off bad management and old debts without any three dimensional assets is not the wisest choice. These are the questions I think voters should ask themselves. A five acre park is missing from the Skyborne development. The city maintains the few parks that do exist for now, and the new county contract is not free. So far, we are to understand the city does not wish to manage maintain or operate the parks, police, or the fire department. What do they wish to manage?
The city has been repeatedly asked to collect over $2 million dollars in revenues per year by simply setting up Medical marijuana dispensaries that are already selling to our residents outside of DHS. There is plenty of revenue being left on the table before we soak investors, homeowners, and taxpayers.
Questions and comments? JohnPaulValdez@gmail.com