Not only will Alameda residents pick new City Council and school board representatives when they go to the polls Nov. 4, they also will decide whether they want to raise a city tax.

Measure P would raise the transfer tax — or what people pay when real estate changes hands — to $12 per $1,000, instead of the current $5.40.

City leaders say the increase will help offset a budget shortfall of at least $4 million.

But opponents say the measure will shift the burden of maintaining city services to a relatively small number of people, or those who are buying and selling their homes.

"It's unfair because the people who will pay this tax are often those who can least afford it," said Dianne Richmond of Gold Coast Real Estate. "It will be people such as young first-time home-buyers or someone who is elderly and who may need to sell their home after a spouse has died."

If voters approve the measure, it would mean that Alameda would have the fourth highest transfer tax in California, Richmond said.

Increasing the tax also could make it harder to sell properties on the Island, especially given the current sluggish economy, said Rob Platt of Rob Platt & Associates.

The tax would sunset in 20 years.


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"If people want to maintain police and fire and other essential services, then they need to support Measure P," Mayor Beverly Johnson said. "I do not think people understand the level of cuts that will be necessary if voters do not support this tax."

On Tuesday, City Manager Debra Kurita will brief the City Council on the possible cuts if Measure P fails.

It will need a simple majority to pass.

The council's decision to put Measure P on the ballot follows city officials commissioning a survey among Alameda voters on what kind of tax they would support, as well as what city services they wish to maintain and where they would accept cuts.

The majority of the 400 people polled, or 70 percent, do not want any cuts in police patrols or paramedic services. But 65 percent would accept some cuts to the maintenance of parks and sports fields and 58 percent would find cuts to recreation programs acceptable.

The survey also showed that a $120 parcel tax for police and firefighters would not get the two-thirds majority it would need to pass.

The effort to increase the transfer tax follows the council approving $4 million in cuts in February. An additional $700,000 in cuts is on the immediate horizon, Johnson said.

The Albany City Council voted July 7 to place a similar measure on the ballot. It would raise that city's tax from $11.50 to $14.50 per $1,000.