OAKLAND -- Local voters will see a proposal for a new $80 parcel tax to pay for city services on the ballot if the state's proposed special election happens in June.
Oakland is facing a $46 million budget deficit in the fiscal year that begins in July, and Mayor Jean Quan said she's hoping voters will agree to contribute about $11 million per year for the next five years by approving the temporary tax. The money would go to help pay for police and fire services, parks and recreation, library services and technology, and youth violence prevention.
Five City Council members agreed Monday night to place the proposed tax on the ballot in June, in a special election Gov. Jerry Brown is seeking.
The city's general fund revenue is expected to be about $400 million in the next year, down about $91 million from what it was in 2006, City Administrator Dan Lindheim said. The shortfall, combined with expected federal funding cuts, the possible elimination of state redevelopment agencies and other blows to the city may leave Oakland scrambling to make up $124 million, Quan said.
"No one thing is going to save the city," Quan said. "But if this passes, it will take some of the edge off the cuts, and we're going to make pretty deep cuts."
Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan (At Large) said it's essential the city adopt a budget before the election, with two options that show what the city will do depending on whether the measure passes.
Quan said a privately funded poll of 400 people got the second-best response she's seen from Oakland residents. The poll showed 66 percent approval for the parcel tax, which would need two-thirds approval to pass. Quan declined to release details of the poll and was met with some skepticism.
Councilmember Libby Schaaf (Laurel-Montclair) voted against putting the parcel tax on the ballot, saying she didn't find Quan's poll convincing enough to risk the almost $1 million it will cost the city to put the tax on the ballot.
Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente (Fruitvale) provided the other "no" vote, calling the measure a "business-as-usual" move that avoids the "major structural changes that need to be made."
"For that reason, I think we always will continue having a so-called emergency," De La Fuente said. He was the only council member to vote against declaring a fiscal emergency, which needed a unanimous vote by the council, killing two of Quan's other proposals to place phone tax and property transfer tax measures on the special ballot.
Quan has vowed to actively campaign for the parcel tax and said she's confident voters will agree to it.
If the state's special election doesn't happen, the measure will be canceled, though the council could arrange a mail-in election by August and still collect the additional taxes for the coming year.
Contact Sean Maher at 510-208-6430.