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MEASURE A: Pro/con

Submitted by on 1, February 3, 2011 – 12:03 am2 Comments

As is our custom here at The Island, we’ve offered the campaigns for and against the Measure A school parcel tax space to make their pitch. The tax, which is on the ballot on March 8, would raise an estimated $12 million a year over for seven years for Alameda’s schools by charging property owners 32 cents per square foot of building on each parcel they own. The tax has a cap of $7,999 and $299 for unimproved parcels like parking lots, and an exemption for seniors and some disabled people.

Check back on Friday for The Island’s recommendation on how you should vote on Measure A, which was put together by our brand-new editorial board.

From the Committee Against Measure A:

Measure A is an unfair, regressive tax that disproportionately shifts the burden of supporting our schools from big corporations with billions of dollars in annual revenue to the average homeowner and small business owner.

The “Plan B” school consolidation plan put forth by the Alameda Unified School District is not an honest one – it was deliberately crafted to scare people into supporting AUSD’s last parcel tax measure, with the help of the $300 an hour political consultants that are working for the proponents of the current measure, and who worked for AUSD and the groups who advocated for the last two parcel tax measures. We need an honest assessment of how the district can restructure itself as a better, stronger district.

Here’s why you should vote “no”on Measure A:

· During last year’s parcel tax campaign, we were told that 11 schools would close if the measure failed. It failed and no schools closed. Now they are claiming five schools will close if Measure A fails. Given their history, why should anyone believe them?

· Homeowners and small businesses will pay 32 cents per square foot while big business will pay as little as 1 cent per square foot.

· The average homeowner will see their tax increase by 65 percent according to the AUSD.

· Tax on a 2,000 square foot home will more than double. Some people will see their tax quadruple.

· The $7,999 cap represents a 16 percent tax cut for big corporations, such as:

o Alameda Towne Centre, which has over $100 million per year in retail revenue.

o The Oakland Raiders, who have over $200 million per year in revenue, and over $100 million per year in player expenses.

o Nob Hill Foods which is owned by Raley’s Corporation, which enjoys over $3 billion in annual revenue.

o Svendsen’s Boatworks is one of the top 25 sales tax producers for the City of Alameda along with the big national retail chains at Alameda Towne Centre.

o All of these businesses will pay far less than 32 cents per square foot.

· Many businesses endorsing the tax won’t pay anything under Measure A, because of a loophole created by AUSD.

· The cap transfers the tax burden to local small businesses, which add the most jobs to our economy. Measure A is a job killer, not a job protector.

· Measure A discriminates against some students in favor of others. Twelve percent of Alameda’s public school students will be in charter schools next year, but charter schools get only 3-4 percent of the funds. All students should be funded equally.

· Our federal tax system is progressive: the more money you make the greater percent you pay. But Measure A is the opposite and is a perfect example of regressive taxation.

· Measure A was crafted with secret data that the public is not allowed to see. The school district refuses to tell individuals how much their tax will be, but this web site does: www.Alameda-No-On-A.com.

From Alameda SOS:

By Michael Robles-Wong

Our public schools are an integral part of what makes Alameda a special place to live. A reputation for good schools, the presence of generations of families, and an excellent customer base for local businesses all contribute to Alameda’s unique quality of life.

Our schools face a serious financial challenge, however. State budget cuts and the expiration of our local school funding measures add up to nearly $20 million in cuts over a three-year period without new authorization of local funding.

Measure A is the proposal the school board has placed before us, after an extensive public input process, to address this challenge. I signed on to chair the campaign because I believe Measure A represents the right solution for this community. Here are a few reasons why:

It funds important needs for our youth: These include K-3 class sizes; quality teachers; AP courses; art, music, and PE; neighborhood schools; high school athletics; and more. It allocates specific percentages of the proceeds to each program, and in doing so, it fully replaces the parcel taxes we currently pay.

It addresses concerns from the past: Last year, opponents said the prior parcel tax proposal, Measure E, was flawed because it contained different tax structures for residences and businesses. Measure A uses the same structure for both.

Last time, opponents argued that Measure E was regressive because it charged all homeowners a uniform tax, regardless of the size of the home. Measure A uses a progressive approach that ties the tax directly to the size of the home.

Last time, opponents said Measure E was too expensive. Measure A reduces the amount raised from $14 million per year to $12 million.

It protects jobs and economic development: I believe it’s not only possible, but important, to support our schools and our business community at the same time. The cap in Measure A keeps the tax reasonable for businesses, protects jobs for the people who work there, and ensures that new businesses aren’t deterred by the tax from coming to Alameda.

Any business parcel hitting the cap will still pay 16 times what the median Alameda house will, and entities like Alameda Towne Centre that have multiple parcels will pay much more. No public policy is perfect, but this one strikes a reasonable compromise for a worthy cause.

It treats charters fairly: It is rare for California school parcel taxes to include any funding for charter schools.  Measure A does, and it provides the most specific provision for charter students ever in an Alameda parcel tax. The proportion was set at a fair level reflecting the fact that charter schools have less overhead and more flexible funding.

It is attracting broad community support: Elected leaders, business, labor, seniors, parents, and community organizations are coming together around Measure A. The Chamber of Commerce has called it “as fair as possible and as low as possible,” with a structure that “distributes the burden of the tax as equitably as possible over the entire community.”

View the endorsers of Measure A at www.AlamedaSOS.org, and please join them March 8 in supporting great schools for the children of Alameda.


  • Jon Spangler says:

    The Committee Against Measure A (CAMA) seems to “forget” (or is ignoring the fact) that the process of closing schools 1) takes years, and 2) is already underway. The Board of Education voted last fall to begin implementing the school closures and program cuts under Scenario B and the slow closure process has already begun:


    These carefully planned but extremely disruptive school closures can be minimized only if Measure A passes by a two-thirds majority plus one margin. There is no way to avoid the school closures listed unless voters approve this $12 million parcel tax.

    CAMA refused to participate in the crafting of Measure A despite being invited to the table last year by AUSD. I would respect their opposition much more had they chosen to participate constructively in that process.

    CAMA similarly misrepresented and refused to participate in the now-cancelled League of Women Voters’ forum unless the League altered its time-honored agenda and format to suit CAMA’s own peculiar definition of “fairness.”

    It certainly appears to me that CAMA’s goal is not only to undermine the quality and substance of public debate on the parcel tax, but ultimately, to cripple Alameda’s public schools. Why would any responsible person or group continue to support either of these goals?


    • Peter M says:

      I had heard that the anti-measure A claim that some businesses pay as little as 1 cent per square foot, compared to the 32 cents for homeowners is an exaggeration.

      My understanding was that the “1 cent per square foot” would only apply to a specific small subparcel of the Alameda Towne Center, and that the overall property would pay a much more substantial part of the tax.

      Could some anti-measure A advocates give specific examples of business properties that would only have to pay 1 cent per square foot?

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