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Temporary Sales Tax on Albany's Ballot to Help Maintain Operations and Services

Measure F endorsed by Nancy Skinner and the Albany Board of Education among others

On November 6, Albany voters will be asked to vote on a ½ cent sales tax to be in place for 8 years. You may be asking yourself why such a tax is necessary.  After all, Albany isn’t one of those cities filing for bankruptcy, and things don’t seem so bad here.

It is precisely because residents want to keep what we now enjoy - health & safety, programs for youth and seniors, environmental protection, sound property values and continued city services – and because we don’t want to fall short that we need a temporary tax to help keep us afloat.

As a city of about 18,000 residents, Albany is modest in size, scope, and resources.  Residents value public schools, alert and responsive public safety, engagement with one another and government, and protection of the environment.    Even through the recession, property values have remained relatively steady, and few properties have changed hands.

City government is managed with fiscal conservatism.  The City budgets and spends within its means, and views its reserves as available for unforeseen circumstances rather than ongoing operations.   Employee compensation is middle-of-the road at best, and the choice of pension plans avoided the top tier formulas.  The number of employees has remained lean, even during healthier fiscal times.  

The recession hit Albany’s General Fund by way of a big decrease in property transfer tax revenue, and flat property and sales taxes.  As these were projected, Albany officials, residents, and employees engaged in brainstorming, discussion, and ultimately selection of strategies to keep its budget balanced.  Changes included reduction in labor costs through employee payment of the full amount of the employee portion of the pension premium; second tier pension programs; freezing, eliminating, or restructuring positions; and sharing a Fire Chief and Information Technology Manager with the cities of Piedmont and Emeryville respectively.

Keeping in mind the value that residents place on safety, engagement, the environment, and overall services, the City Council continued the budget conversation into the 2011-12 fiscal year to plan ahead for how to adequately fund these critical and desired operations and services.     One strategy was to expand the city’s tax base, which the City Council recently accomplished by approving a mixed-use development on currently tax-exempt University of California property.  

Another revenue strategy identified in the 2011 budget discussions was a sales tax measure.  The City has the authority to ask its voters if they wish to establish up to a ½ cent sales tax.    But was this a good idea?  Would voters want to do this?  The answer that emerged from a random sample survey by Godbe Research was “Yes.”  

Over the course of meetings between April and July, 2012, the City Council reviewed updated budget projections, a report on the City’s capacity to meet its mandates, responsibilities, mission, and community desires, and the results of the survey.   Please see the April 16 City Council agenda item 8-5 regarding City Capacity Limitations. http://albanyca.org/index.aspx?recordid=5077&page=640  

Ultimately in July, the City Council unanimously decided to proceed with asking voters at the ballot whether to support a sales tax measure to help the City continue to maintain its operations and services. 

You can find further information about Measure F including the impartial analysis by the City Attorney, the ballot arguments for (no arguments were filed against) and the full text of Measure F on the League of Women Voters Smart Voter web site. http://www.smartvoter.org/2012/11/06/ca/alm/meas/F/

The proposed tax would be in place for eight years and would go into effect on April 1, 2013. These funds cannot be taken away by the State.  During this time the City anticipates development will begin to generate new taxes; other growth in the tax base with turnover in property and strength of Albany property values; and continued evolution in how services are delivered most cost effectively and efficiently. 

Your friends and neighbors who have endorsed Measure F (Partial List):

 

Honorable Nancy Skinner

The Albany Unified School District Board of Education

Honorable Farid Javandel

Honorable Marge Atkinson

Honorable Robert Lieber

Honorable Peggy Thomsen

Honorable Joanne Wile

Honorable Kim Denton

Honorable Paul Black

Honorable Allan Maris

Jon Ely, former Mayor

Jewel Okawachi, former Mayor

Thelma Rubin, former Mayor

Tod Abbott

Susan Adame

Michael Barnes

Ellen Davis-Zapata

Doug Donaldson

Pat Donaldson

Alice Ely

Peter Goodman

Ellen Graves

Ellen Hershey

Judy Innes

John Kindle

Karen Larson

Peter Maass

Dror Matalon

Peggy McQuaid

Daniel Murphy

Caryl O’Keefe

Karen Carlson Olson

Hank Olson

Brian Parsley

Nick Pilch

Alan Riffer

Jean Safir

Stephanie Sala

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Michael Barnes October 27, 2012 at 11:34 PM
Folks, we gotta pass Measure F. Without it, budget projections for 2013-14 show a city budget deficit of $160K. Without Measure F, and given the slow economic recovery, the budget projections may not get better for years. Keep in mind that the city is running now with eight staff positions unfilled, and that roughly half the current budget goes to police and fire services. I think if Measure F doesn't pass, police and fire dept. positions will be on the chopping block in the next few years. Measure F will sunset in eight years, by which time we can have some projects like the new Safeway and the UC mixed-use project completed, helping add vitality to our San Pablo and Solano commercial districts. Measure F won't solve our long-term funding problems, but it will give us some breathing room.
Peggy McQuaid November 02, 2012 at 03:18 PM
The CC Times has joined Assembly Member Nancy Skinner and the AUSD Board of Education, each individual Albany City Council member and your neighbors to endorse Measure F. Contra Costa Times editorial: Albany voters should approve Measure F If it were almost any other city, we would probably oppose Albany's Measure F. The proposed eight-year, half-cent sales tax increase would bring the total rate in the city to 9.25 percent. In the East Bay, only El Cerrito and Union City are that high. We generally don't like using sales tax increases to close budget gaps because they are regressive and put merchants at a competitive disadvantage. But we back Measure F because of Albany's circumstances. Revenues from sales and commercial property taxes are substantially less than in most communities. At the same time, city leaders have been fiscally responsible: Unlike most cities, Albany never adopted the most generous pension benefits for police and firefighters. And, they've paid off much of their pension debt. Despite responsible financial planning, the city has had to cut 7 percent of public safety jobs and 17 percent of other positions. Measure F seems justified and we urge a yes vote.

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