Please join the Alameda City Council in voting Yes on Measure P — an increase in the city's existing transfer tax, which is paid by the seller and buyer when property is sold. Lost in recent letters about this measure is what Alamedans will lose if Measure P does not pass.
The anti-P campaign is funded by a Southern California-based Realtors organization. The campaign suggests, without proof, that an increase in the transfer tax will have a negative effect on property values in our community and make selling a home more difficult.
I would like to ask Alamedans to think about the effect on property values and home sales if the city has to cut essential public safety services, library services, and recreation and park activities.
Currently, Alameda's transfer tax is lower than all but one of the charter cities in the East Bay. Home sales and values in Berkeley, Albany and Piedmont haven't been hurt by higher transfer taxes.
In recent years, Alameda's City Council has cut services, deferred maintenance and reduced staffing in order to provide the current level of law enforcement, fire protection, public works, library and park services that Alamedans enjoy. There are only so many deferrals that can happen before significant cuts are made.
Public safety represents two-thirds of Alameda's General Fund expenses.
Current staffing levels of the Alameda Police Department are directly related to the quick arrests in last year's Halloween tragedy and correlate strongly to the safety of Alameda. Staffing for Alameda's fire trucks/engines and ambulances is also critical to our safety.
Without Measure P funds, the city will have no choice but to make cuts in these departments.
Unfortunately, what happens at the state level directly affects the money Alameda receives. Since 1992, the state has taken over $52 million from Alameda. Just last week, the state treasurer announced that the recently approved state budget, for the current fiscal year, already has a deficit of $3 billion. State leaders are already meeting, less than a month after approving their budget, to decide how to make additional cuts for the current fiscal year. Measure P funds are protected from raiding by the state, making them a guaranteed funding source.
The city of Alameda has managed to operate with a balanced budget in recent years, despite the closure of the naval air station, the dot-com bust, and now the national housing crisis.
The City Council does not make the decision to increase the transfer tax on people buying homes in Alameda lightly. The choice was made only after looking at over 50 revenue-raising options and deciding a tax that would increase the taxes paid on an average $600,000 house less than $4,000, or .066 percent, was the only way to maintain the services that support the quality of life we all love.
I ask all Alameda voters to take a direct stake in preserving Alameda's vital services that help make our city special. Vote yes on Measure P on Nov. 4.
Beverly Johnson is mayor of Alameda.