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Pros, cons offered at Measure A forum

Submitted by on 1, January 13, 2011 – 12:02 am8 Comments

Proponents and opponents of the Measure A school parcel tax offered their perspectives on the tax during a forum and endorsement meeting hosted by the Alameda Democratic Club on Wednesday night.

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.


  • The Big business giveaway issue falls flat. Yes, a few big businesses hit the cap, as do some local businesses. But many large corporations, like McDonalds, Citibank, Bank of America, Kentucky Fried Chicken, etc. will pay the same rates Alameda’s Mom and Pop shops.

    What should be telling is that WABA, an organization of businesses, and the Chamber, another organization of businesses have come out for Measure A. While there are certainly some businesses that oppose Measure A, clearly, a large number of small businesses, who will not pay the cap do not think this is an unfair tax.

    We’re talking about 100 or so capped parcels out of tens of thousands, it’s not a rampant problem, and removing the cap would save about 2.5 cents per sq. ft. Measure A is a clear compromise that looks to meet the needs without everyone getting what they wanted. Howard and Traiman want a tax that is designed exactly the way they would design it, or they oppose, as is their right. However in a city of 75,000, compromise is the sign of the body politic listening to it constituents.

    Support Measure A and Alameda Community.

  • Adam Gillitt says:

    What is more concerning is the endlessly repeated dogma that the schools benefit everyone, so everyone should support the schools equally. Yet, this tax, by definition, is structured so that taxpayers, by caprice, do not have to support the schools equally. The greatest supporters to our tax coffers, big business, pay the lowest rates. One of the largest voting blocs of the community, seniors 60 and over, pay nothing.

    How is this fair? This is yet another way a small private club attempts to portray itself as speaking for the majority of Alameda Citizens.

  • StevenGerstle says:

    I did not support the previous measure because I believe that it is unfair for someone who owns a studio condominium to pay the same school tax as someone who owns an estate in the Gold Coast. In the best of all possible worlds, all California school children would receive public school funding at an equal and adequate level. Local parcel taxes create inequality. All of our children should be given equal opportunity. That said, I plan on voting for Measure A as it is an improvement over the previous measure. The owner of a studio condo will pay proportionately less than the owner of a large home. The tax is not perfect, but more harm would come from voting against it than from voting for it.

  • Li_ says:

    Y/N ? We are prohibited from using income to determine a school tax.

    Y/N ? A wealthy person and a poor person will pay the same amount if they have the same sized lot.
    Y/N ? A disabled or a senior citizen may opt to apply for an exemption to the tax without regard to the size of his/her lot.
    Y/N ? The county property tax rolls will be used to determine the lot sizes.

    Thank you,

  • Parlin Rathborne says:

    I have not seen an adequate explanation as to why the average person in Alameda should vote for this. I understand the school system wants to keep their pensions and are afraid of the cuts coming if Governor Brown’s tax increase we vote in in June does not go through. I doubt whether voters approve this additional spending.

    With the state in its current state of spending $500 per person that we don’t have and wanting to increase its budget by 9 Billion dollars next year over this year our school system is likely to be cut. If so and we approve of this measure what happens to our schools? Why the rush to vote for this before we know what the state is going to do? What type of savings can be reached by switching from pensions to 401K retirement like the private sector? These topics need addressed before I can vote this measure.

    • Hey Phil,

      Thanks for your comment. Just as a reminder to you and everyone, I typically delete comments when I see someone using more than one screen name from the same IP address and/or e-mail, and I’ve got three names on this IP and two on your listed e-mail address on file. So please everyone, stick with one screen name when you comment.

  • Susan Davis says:

    Hi Parlin,

    Measure A hasn’t really been put on the ballot “in a rush.”

    The district first started exploring the option of a parcel tax to replace the current parcel taxes (which expire in 2012) way back in July, 2009. After 8 months of community meetings, in which the community’s desire to have a new parcel tax came through loud and clear, the district put “Measure E” on the ballot last June (2010).

    That measure didn’t pass. So, after hearing from community members that they wanted to try again, the district went back to the drawing board, having still more meetings with the community to figure out what would work best in Alameda, plus meeting with various groups, including businesses, parents, seniors, and unions. Using that feedback, the district came up with “Measure A.”

    The reason we have to vote on it in March is because if the district waits to hear if voters approve Brown’s proposed tax extension (in June) — and for the final state budget to see how K-12 education is funded (also June, in a good year) — it will be too late for the district to make the plans for 2011-2012. I.e., district staff needs more than 2.5 months (in the summer) to enact the plan to lay-off teachers, close schools, and cut programs.

    That’s a long answer to just one of your questions, but I hope it helps!

  • Jon Spangler says:


    1. Y/N ? We are prohibited from using income to determine a school tax.

    The school district cannot levy local income taxes nor can it use income-based exemptions. (The enabling state legislation only permits exemptions form the parcel tax for seniors and those on disability (SSI).)

    2. Y/N ? A wealthy person and a poor person will pay the same amount if they have the same sized lot.

    Yes, they will. Parcel taxes, by definition, cannot be assessed based on income.

    3. Y/N ? A disabled or a senior citizen may opt to apply for an exemption to the tax without regard to the size of his/her lot.

    Correct. Exemptions cannot be related to anything other than age or disability status, according to state law. (No other exemptions are permitted.)

    I do not know the complete answer to your final question.

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