An obscure organization known as the Napa County Regional Park and Open Space District has placed a new 15-year sales tax on the March 3 ballot.
It was approved for the ballot by county supervisors in August, but no one is talking about it. Why is that?
Is it because three times in the past, they have asked voters to approve funding for this bureaucracy and we voters have rejected them every time?
Is it because only three of the five elected board of directors of the Open Space District voted to ask the county supervisors to place this tax before the voters? Why was it not a unanimous vote of the directors?
Is it because the Napa County Taxpayers Association opposes this new tax as it did in the 2016 election. Why? Because the Open Space District boasts that with its paltry funding from the County of Napa it has already “protected” thousands of acres and created many miles of trails.
Not only that, but the five cities in Napa County already boast something like 90 separate parks and recreation facilities, and there are many schools with recreation facilities in Napa County.
With all these local parks and protected county land, we ask why they need a new sales tax and millions more from taxpayers than they now receive from the county?
We ask where that money goes and who protects taxpayers? Their plan is to spend up to 3% on administration. Why is this necessary when the Measure T road tax spends only 1%?
Why does their plan expand their bureaucracy while Measure T operates successfully with no hired employees. Their expenditure plan shows an open ended allowance for “out of county travel including transportation, lodging and food travel and meals.” This seems unusual since the same expenditure plan prohibits the district from acquiring property outside of Napa County. So we ask why there is an allowance for travel?
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Too many unanswered questions cloud the issue of this new tax.
Editor's note: The Registered asked the Open Space District about the issues raised by the author. General Manager John Woodbury send the following response:
"The letter is comparing apples and oranges. The percentage going to administration is in itself a meaningless number; the question is what is covered by the restriction.
"(1) Measure T supplements the budgets of public agencies that have extensive other tax revenues, and most of their admin costs and personnel costs are covered by other tax revenues, not Measure T revenues. NCRPOSD has no other tax revenues, so there is no other place to hide administrative costs.
"(2) Measure T funding is mostly used to contract with private firms to do the actual road work. The administrative costs of contractors are not covered by the Measure T restriction, and thus not constrained by Measure T’s 1% limitation.
"(3) Measure T has no restriction on out of county travel, as long as the travel can be justified as related to a project. That could include such things as trips to San Francisco to attend regional meetings, trips to conferences in places like Tahoe or Asilomar for training programs or to meet with potential contractors and equipment suppliers, or trips to look at other projects to learn from them. Many people have concerns about such travel, particularly when it is to places that most would consider vacation spots. For this reason, Measure K explicitly includes out of county travel as a component of admin overhead, meaning out of county travel needs to be specifically tracked, can’t be buried under project costs, and counts against the cap on administrative expenses."