Letters to the Editor: Moraga’s Measure K

A reader writes with his thoughts on a proposed sales tax to help fund road repair in Moraga.


Dear Editor:

Measure K is a one percent sales tax to fund roadway repair in the Town of Moraga. If this measure is passed, our town council will vote to issue municipal bonds that will provide immediate funding for roadway repair, rehabilitation, and maintenance.

In preparation for this, our town hired Edric Kwan in July as Town Engineer and Public Works Director. Mr. Kwan is an experienced municipal engineer who is adept at pavement management. A few weeks ago Edric took the time to explain some of the technical aspects of pavement assessment and management to me and answer my questions. He utilizes the latest software tools to assist him making the best decisions –decisions that are objective, cost effective and timely.

Our meeting left me confident that our town is following the right path, at the right time with the right people.  They are focused on delivering recognizable improvements to our roads in the short term and establishing a comprehensive maintenance program for the long term.

Good roads benefit all in our community and Measure K is the first step.  I support Measure K.

William Faoro, PE Civil

TMoraga September 28, 2012 at 09:05 PM
Jon - I sent my father inlaw to the library meeting held at I recall 6pm ish mid week where the Engineer who later I recall ended up moving to Vallejo for a job etc. Anyway he did not own a home here yet. He does now. He moved from Ann Arbor Michigan. I told him to take note on how many people where there, and what type of people they were young - old - single etc etc. He is actually a engineer with over a decade of experience building massive projects and watched Ann Arbor switch roads around his home from gravel to pavement and back to gravel based on the locals willingness to pay for proper road repair funding. When he returned to our house after the meeting - Wife was still in SF at work and I was dealing with two of our young kids. I asked him what his take was? He laughed and said people don't pay crap for taxes around here no wonder your roads are falling apart. He paid over $8000 a year in taxes for a home valued around 400K that he had lived in for 30yrs back in Ann Arbor. Even then one of the major roads near his home was gravel! Here is the basic rub that I and most of my younger family neighbors have. We haven't had time or the ability to participate in the Town decision making it is all GEARED to OLD PEOPLE with no jobs or kids! As a result the decisions and ideas that get made or proposed all target the one population that can't get from work in SF mid week back to Moraga by 7pm only to walk right into a town meeting.
John Schwartz September 28, 2012 at 09:09 PM
TMoraga: the surveys conducted by the Town clearly showed that a Parcel Tax which requires 2/3rds for approval would not pass, while a 1% sales tax which requires 50% + 1 would pass. I also disagree with your premise that a parcel tax is more "equitable". A parcel tax lands only on the homeowners, while a sales tax includes EVERYONE who conducts business in the Town (think about the people who come into Moraga to shop at the Dollar Tree, HomeGoods, TJ Maxx, etc...). This isn't the "perfect solution", but if we let perfect get in the way "good", we will all end up paying significantly more in a very short time.
TMoraga September 28, 2012 at 09:18 PM
John I create surveys for a living its one of the tools of my trade. I happen to be home when the survey company called me. The Survey was SHIT ! I wouldn't bet a bag of peanuts on the results you have from that survey. For one not a single neighbor with young kids and two working parents out of the home got the call. I actually got the call TWICE! I knew right away what the survey was for and what I found interesting is that no where in the list of questions was there a clear question which asked if a flat fee per parcel would be attractive to me. Actually!!! Given I have created surveys I asked the person running through the questions if there was any question in their list that had such thing? The person actually was quite nice and talked with me for over 15minutes regarding the questions on the list - and we both came to the conclusion that there was NO SUCH question on the list. If there was - it was so Poorly structured that neither I or the person with the list could find it even when we spent most of the call discussing if there was any such wording that indicated a FLAT fee per Parcel.
TMoraga September 28, 2012 at 09:27 PM
Regarding Sales tax on a hand full of struggling businesses in Moraga? First off I try to buy in Moraga when possible. However!!! The shops we do have are some of the most odd and Random shops you could possibly have in a place that is for the most part pretty isolated. I spend more on Amazon prime - buying kids diapers - baby cereal - Birthday party gifts and clothes than I spend anywhere else regarding the type of stuff I might buy in Moraga if I could find it. The reason? Simple the price even with tax which gets added ASAP - is still competitive and it gets hand delivered to my front door! I don't spend any time driving around town trying to find it. I can spend that time working to pay for my home - or dealing with my kids etc. Pretty much EVERY parent my age in Moraga does the same thing. Unless you can find a way to place a 1% sales tax on every item purchased by people in Moraga and hauled into town - I don't see that possible at all given I have three homes around the corner that have had between two and three cars parked out front and in the driveway with Nevada plates on them since I moved here in 09. The 1% tax all it does is pass the burden to the people who might be making an effort to support local business most of those people are not the same people who have driven on the roads for the past 30yrs and play a big role in the current Town Council ideas.
John Schwartz September 28, 2012 at 09:32 PM
TMoraga, I have no basis of opinion on the quality of the survey. As an FYI, I also was a recipient of a survey call (two kids and i work). Regardless of the quality of the survey, the fact that Measure A "for the schools" didn't pass, is a pretty clear indicator that the Moraga electorate has tired of parcel taxes. I don't see this as "picking on newbies", I see it as sharing the responsibility with those who use the roads.
John Schwartz September 28, 2012 at 09:43 PM
TMoraga: The revenue estimates generated by the proposed tax are around 900K per year. Accepting that a parcel tax WILL NOT pass, what would your alternate solution be to generate that revenue, because the roads won't fix themselves. I've read a number of comments bemoaning the fact that this issue "was never dealt with or planned for..." We have the chance to do something to prevent a worse situation in 5 to 10 years, or we can "punt" - which is what everyone is complaining about.
TMoraga September 28, 2012 at 09:46 PM
Measure A was defeated by the same majority that will defeat any type of tax they can't "see above post" Avoid! The road issue will not be addressed till the population of Moraga gets fully schooled on what is wrong with the roads and why a little asphalt tossed here and there isn't fixing the issue. Heck my next door neighbor with older kids had no idea till I mentioned it to him last spring. He has had family in the area for over a Decade! You CANNOT succeed at proper fixes and solutions when even the small town of Moraga has a huge percentage of home owners who aren't even aware of the issue! There is a reason why people strapped loud speakers to cars and drove up and down small town streets blaring who to vote for or why people needed to support a particular town effort. For sure we will always get the town idiot who thinks that because he has 50ft of private driveway they are exempt from a town paving fee. He/she must use their hover car to get around. Orinda is full of these people going to the Town meeting complaining about why they should pay when the live on a private driveway in their million + dollar home LOL.
TMoraga September 28, 2012 at 09:54 PM
The punt is the tax game. The fix is making sure everyone pays the same cost skin in the game ie flat property fee. After all property value is impacted by how well the local town - schools etc are managed and cared for. Which means EVERY property OWNER stands to gain from properly managed Infrastructure be it roads or Schools - Parks etc. The reason that idea hasn't floated is because the loudest group of people in Moraga regarding Council participation are for the most part the people who want solutions they can "Avoid"
Larry Tessler September 28, 2012 at 10:00 PM
1) Moraga retains the least amount of property tax of any city or town in Contra Costa County as a result of the 1979 law. 2) Moraga spends less per resident on Town management. The amount is something in the neighborhood of $6 million. 3) Moraga, as Council member Metcalf has said retains only about 1 cent of the sales tax now collected. 4) If your car averages 20 miles per gallon the gas will cost you $2 to go to Walnut Creek to shop to save a few cents on a purchase made in Moraga. 5) If anyone wants to list the financial mistakes (with supporting evidence) that our volunteer Town Councils have made over the past 10 years and then compare that number to the totals spent, I speculate the numbers are small. 6) If one divides the anticipated $900,000 sales tax by the 16,000 residents one will find the cost per year is $56 per person assuming that all the sales in Town are to Moraga residents. They are not as our major chain stores derive a significant amount of their sales from people living outside. 7) Consider for a moment what not fixing the roads will do to your property values and compare that to your potential additional tax payments.
TMoraga September 28, 2012 at 10:07 PM
Larry - that $56 a year is not distributed equally! But use of the roads is equally shared. A family of 4 or 5 - will have far far FAR more of the tax cost placed on them. I'm not retired I don't have the 30 minutes to run to Target to get the Soap that is sold at RiteAid to avoid paying the Moraga TAX. However my retired Father inlaw would make a trip out of it mid day to do such a thing! Taken right from your post 7) Consider for a moment what not fixing the roads will do to your property values and compare that to your potential additional tax payments. ^ This is exactly why EVERY property owner should be paying the same flat fee! Given the 38yr resident who used the roads and paid nothing - and consumes nothing from Moraga proper regarding sales tax - has a property value that benefits from my sales tax penalty.
TMoraga September 28, 2012 at 10:35 PM
Andrew I agree with many of the things you have mentioned - bloated pensions and a couple of things no so much. But I think your general idea is right. However regarding new housing I have a family member in the Developer business and the Number one sales pitch Developers use to gain City approval for development plans are unfounded "Potential" Tax revenues from the new homes. LOL I run my youngest to Lafayette for daycare right now will not be doing that past 1yr of age he is at 6 months now. I did the same thing with my 3yr old. Something has dramatically changed regarding school attendance and where people are coming from to drop kids off in the Lafayette schools given the traffic is dramatically different than it was 2yrs ago- no new homes were built but the roads Moraga WAY and St Mary's have FAR FAR more traffic on them Today than they did just two years ago. Moraga gets so little income from property tax that adding homes to Moraga would really no nothing but increase the costs of road upgrades - larger modified intersections - sidewalks etc due to the increase in traffic. Basically its a loosing BET from the Town perspective and the current residents to think the Classic sales pitch from a developer of golden piles of new TAX revenue from a few new homes is the cure of the towns ill's
Larry Tessler September 28, 2012 at 10:46 PM
TMoraga, I would suggest to you that no taxes are distributed equally. Nor are the services one receives distributed equally. A family of 4 or 5 likely uses the roads more often. Travel to school comes to mind. The roads, however, are not used equally. I live in one of the developments in town that pays for its own roads. Yet I am willing to contribute to the repair of our Town roads for the good of all. As you probably know, this money is to be spent basically in the neighborhoods as our arterial roads are paid for primarily from a special gas tax and federal funding. This is still a free country and your father in law can do as he pleases. My wife and I are retired and we travel out of town to do much of our volunteer work. We still make it a point to Shop Moraga First. A flat fee sounds good but won't pass. And in any case I would dispute your claim of that being fair or any more fair than a sales tax. Do you have children in our schools? I don't. I don't have children. Do you consider it "fair" that some of my property taxes go to support the schools (a lot more than is generated from sales tax)? Was I fooling to have voted for all the school tax measures? Should I now decline to contribute to the Moraga Education Fund? Or should I consider the schools, as I do the roads, a prudent investment in our future prosperity in this idyllic little gem of a Town we have here?
TMoraga September 29, 2012 at 02:12 AM
Larry I do have kids and your home value is directly related to the schools. My wife and I are here because paying 1mill for a home close to SF for work is cheaper than paying $36,000 per child per year in SF. Yes we considered it. No quality schools here in lamorinda there is zero reason we or the 7 other friends we have would have bought here. The peninsula offers way larger employment options than the East Bay and the school options are workable. Property owners here in Moraga would be foolish to think their home value was not a direct result of schools. Roads not being cared for is just foolish regardless of how you cut it. As for Sanders ranch it was set up knowing the streets had to be covered by the home owners! Probably the onlyway the developer was able to get the proposal accepted by Moraga. However you are a Moraga resident and use Moraga roads so regardless of how long your private driveway is you purchased knowing it was a cost. Paying your fair share for Moraga infrastructure which gets water gas and you to your home isnt asking much
TMoraga September 29, 2012 at 02:30 AM
Not to mention if $56 a year very rough no promises on sales tax revenu is no big deal whats a 100% town predictable $100 a year from every property owner? Maybe you order the cheaper dish one time a year at your favorite place to eat or use your miles a little differently when you travel! Again this 1% sales tax is a punt that puts the bulk of the unpredictable sales tax on St Marys student who dont have cars and often walk on unlit zero sidewalk street shoulders to Safeway. And the families who dont travel or have time to go to WC. Regarding the argument of use? Seriously? Can you get to your home without driving on Moraga Town roads? I would love to see that trick?
John Schwartz September 29, 2012 at 04:05 AM
TM: Voters WILL NOT approve a parcel tax. Measure K is the revenue source that has the best chance for approval, which is why it has been proposed. Doing NOTHING at this point is simply kicking the can down the road. While I understand your frustration at the overall situation, we (Moraga residents) do not have the luxury of stomping our feet and holding our breath. Doing that will simply insure that we will end up paying 5x more over the next few years. There is a lot of information available that supports the premise behind Measure K, and I hope that you and "your friends" take the time to read it. While Measure K will not be a panacea for our road problems, it is still a progressive step in the right direction.
TMoraga September 29, 2012 at 05:14 AM
I wont be voting for it. Crap solution based on crap data. I dont see any of the younger property owners voting for it either. 1% bandaid sales tax for roads. I do however see change soon pushed by those of us tired of the same old crap.
Andrew September 29, 2012 at 03:33 PM
John Schwartz, Larry Tessler, and the other disciples of the current MTC I have some other news for you. Wherever your credit card billing address is located determines the amount of sales tax you pay. For example, if you make a purchase via Amazon, you will be accessed this proposed sales tax. My advice would be to change your credit card address elsewhere or even a post office box in a neighboring locale. If enacted, this will be the highest sales tax in the State of California. When you vote, keep this in mind. VOTE NO ON MEASURE K.
Larry Tessler September 30, 2012 at 12:55 AM
To sum up, I am in favor of Measure K. If the roads deteriorate further before repair and replacement occur the cost to fix them later will escalate dramatically. I pay for the roads in development I live in (not Sanders Ranch). I rarely drive on other neighborhood roads yet I am willing to pay for their repair through a sales tax increase because I know if the roads deteriorate, the home values will decline and they will decline far more than the tax we are being asked to pay. Whether you, TMoraga or you, Andrew choose to vote no, well that is your business. As an aside, of course I drive on Town roads to get to my home. But as I patiently attempted to explain, these roads are not covered by Measure K. The arterials in town are covered with other taxes. And, of course I realize I pay sales tax on anything I purchase that is sales taxable. Regardless of the purchase origin the collection is still part of the $900,000 the Town anticipates collecting.
Andrew L. November 08, 2012 at 07:33 PM
Come again?
TMoraga November 08, 2012 at 07:46 PM
John - some food for thought All my neighbors easily have 20-30yrs on me and the more I got to know them the more of them owned 2nd homes in places that had lower tax bases. That 1% tax does not just impact the Starbucks customers in the Rheem center - it impacts everyone who purchases a car and uses their Moraga address! The more I spoke with these neighbors the more I realized that #1 they liked K because most of them could easily avoid paying it! #2 All of them think that patching the failed road out front will fix the road issue. Only one of them pointed to the busted up road and told me patching that crap is not fixing the failed Road bed and will do nothing!!! Tearing up a failed road bed - replacing it - putting down new pavement - then keeping it sealed every say 8yrs etc is what most of our Moraga Roads need at this point given there HAS NEVER BEEN A SCHEDULED SEALING plan to protect the road beds from damage and failure!
TMoraga November 08, 2012 at 07:56 PM
I spoke with many of the elder neighbors who thought K was the coolest idea EVER! Couple of things - All of them had high end vehicles parked in their garage All of them owned a 2nd home outside of Moraga most of which had lower tax rates ie they can avoid paying the 1% penalty on big ticket items like say cars by simply using their other address. 99.99% of them all thought that the broken up street in front of their home simply needed a little asphalt tossed on it and it would be fixed. LOL Not a single one of them liked the idea of a fixed price inescapable parcel tax paid by every property owner to properly fund full road replacement and a proper road sealing schedule to keep the cost of road replacement and patching down. When I asked them if they thought the ability to negotiate long term road contracts was a good idea and cheaper than calling up contractors to fix streets as we go they all said sure long term contracts are always cheaper! Then I asked them how they could negotiate a long term contract if they have no idea what their budget is beyond a very rough estimate? They all looked at me stumped and said "Well that would be very hard if you don't know what money you have to spend" Voter awareness of the real issues with our roads and how long term contracts are sorted out and paid for is the fault of the town's people for not teaching the voters about these issues.
TMoraga November 08, 2012 at 08:01 PM
So here is the real break down of K. A very vary large percentage of the demographics that pushed K as a great thing - can easily avoid paying any K related taxes. I and all of my new neighbors who paid lots of money to the prior owners for our new homes here in Moraga - will be paying the K tax FAR FAR FAR FAR!!!!! More money than what we would be paying if we were all paying a flat parcel fee. So I really see K as this A tax on the new folks in town and the road issue is still not addressed.
John Schwartz November 08, 2012 at 08:16 PM
T Moraga: it passed with over 70% of the vote - time to move on.
TMoraga November 08, 2012 at 08:27 PM
Time for the old farts with their BMW's and Mercedes and 2nd homes to pack it up and move to their second homes given their solutions for the past 30+yrs SUCK! Which is why we have this issue to start with.
TMoraga November 08, 2012 at 08:32 PM
As for the 70% - any way you could break down what 70% voted for it? Most of the working couples I spoke with had no idea it translated to another $500 or so paid on their next car purchase even if they bought the car in Sacramento.
TMoraga November 08, 2012 at 08:34 PM
They also all had the same thought - unpredictable income based on a sales tax which was in many ways avoidable to the older folks - making it hard to negotiate any sort of long term plan with a contractor for road care. Not to mention the money that we think we might get out of it - is not even close to what we need to actually replace a number of the failed road beds and repave them.
TMoraga November 08, 2012 at 08:39 PM
By the way you want the younger folks with young kids to start finding solutions - I propose an idea. Offer free child care at the town meetings For EVERY town meeting be it the Traffic Safety Advisory board - the general town counsel meetings etc. Find a way to stream them live via webex so parents sitting on BART can watch and even post questions via a mediator reading them. As it stands today there is NOTHING about any of these meetings which make them ACCESSIBLE to the folks with kids and two parents working.
TMoraga November 08, 2012 at 09:50 PM
LOL - Andrew do you drive anyplace between say 7am and 9am or 3:30pm and 6pm regarding the three major routes to and from Moraga? I could swear that the traffic is 3 times worse this year than it was just a year ago. Yet we haven't added any sizable number of homes ie people to the town. The #1 sales pitch developers use to convince towns to accept development plans is the ever so tempting added sales tax / revenue carrot. What developers do not want the town planner to or counsel to ask for - are road improvements major intersection improvements - or added school or park facilities to accomidate the additional people a development adds. Given this is big money and cuts into their bottom line. Not to mention the developer in most cases doesn't care how it impacts the town as long as they hit their target profit number. My brother happens to work for major developers and I kid you not his favorite part of the job is walking all over city GOV peeps who don't have the experience or the resources to actually do a full review of the developer's proposed plan and its real ramifications to the town
TMoraga November 08, 2012 at 09:56 PM
Good topic for sure it passed but really not much of a surprise. In some ways its a good thing for Moraga schools given at the current burn rate the reserve funds scraped together over the past few years is just about gone next year based on reasonable guesses as to what the state will not be sending the school district. You can bet your box of depends diapers that Moraga Schools will NEED and propose a parcel tax in the coming year or so to address the funding issues that will still remain an issue! Given the K solution for our lousy roads - I see a major fight between the older voters and the younger families in Moraga who do not want to fund Home values for everyone with their cash donations to the school district
2nd Generation Moraga November 08, 2012 at 10:12 PM
@TMoraga: donate early and often to MEF. I wouldn't count on any parcel tax passing in the near future.


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