Mountain View Voice

News - May 7, 2010

City may beef up phone tax

International calls would be included if voters approve

by Daniel DeBolt

A survey of local voters shows that a majority would support a November ballot measure to place an additional tax on phone calls in Mountain View.

It is estimated that the city could raise several hundred thousand dollars in new revenue by expanding the telephone user's tax to interstate and international phone calls. As the city faces a $4 million deficit this year, the City Council appeared to support the proposed ballot measure in an April 27 study session. A city-hired consultant said 68 percent of local voters supported the ballot measure in a recent survey.

"Adding these calls does not appear to be of overriding concern to voters when compared to the benefit to the community ... that the UUT (utility user's tax) revenue helps fund," a city staff report concludes.

The staff proposes "modernizing" the telephone user's tax portion of the UUT to include new technologies such as voice over internet protocol phone services. The city's general fund already receives $1.9 million a year from a 3 percent tax on intrastate phone calls that originate in Mountain View, according to a staff report. But the city has not been as aggressive as other cities in pursuing taxes from all forms of phone use.

The survey asked questions of voters to reveal why they might support the tax. Over 70 percent strongly disagreed with the notion that the city could not be trusted to manage additional tax revenue.

"Voters believe the city is going a good job of providing quality services," said consultant Larry Tramutola.

Those surveyed also prioritized new taxes for youth and teen services over emergency services like police and fire.

E-mail Daniel DeBolt at ddebolt@mv-voice.com

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