Pros, cons offered at Measure A forum
Alameda SOS campaign chairman Michael Robles-Wong said that the tax is needed to maintain Alameda’s schools in the absence of state funding and that its structure is a reflection of extensive community outreach efforts. But opponents Leland Traiman and David Howard said the tax offers an unfair break for big businesses in town at the expense of small business owners and homeowners.
“Measure A … lowers taxes on the very wealthy and increases taxes on the rest of us,” Traiman said. He said the proposed tax lowers the amount of money businesses that own large parcels will pay, while increasing taxes for many homeowners.
Robles-Wong said the tax reflects the input of many local constituencies, which he said was reflected in a tax structure that differs from the Measure E tax voters rejected last June.
“The vast majority of people and businesses are willing to support the tax because they think it’s fair,” Robles-Wong said, adding that the tax has been endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce, the West Alameda Business Association, the City Council and the Alameda County Central Labor Council.
The tax would cost property owners 32 cents for every square foot of building they own, with a cap of $7,999 per parcel and a flat tax of $299 for parcels without structures – parking lots, for example. Seniors and some disabled people would be able to obtain exemptions from paying the tax. If approved by voters on March 8, the term of the tax – which would replace the district’s two existing and soon-to-expire parcel taxes – would be seven years.
The Democratic Club voted to support the tax measure on Wednesday night.
Meeting participants asked Traiman and Howard – who said they support the idea of a tax – what they would consider a fair tax. Howard said he wants a four-year tax with no cap, at a much lower rate than what’s proposed.
They also asked Robles-Wong why the tax offers a blanket senior exemption. He said the exemption is designed for people on fixed incomes.
Participants also asked about the impacts of the measure’s passage or failure. Howard and Traiman questioned district officials’ assertions that schools would close without the money, and said voters should blame the school board if the measure fails.
“Can you afford to vote for this, comparing their salaries to yours?” said Howard, who said district administrators earn more than $100,000 a year.
But Robles-Wong said failure to pass the tax will cause irreversible damage to the schools and the community.
It’s literally going to change the character and nature of our town,” he said.