OAKLAND'S HIGH unemployment rate is well above the national average. Thousands have lost their homes. Many are struggling to pay for the basics.
This is the reality for many Oaklanders.
It is one reason why we strongly reject the city-sponsored ballot measures X and W. They would place an even greater burden on residents who are already struggling. The other reason we urge you to vote no is that the ballot measures are bad policy. They are hastily drawn, poorly crafted proposals designed by a city leadership that lacks the courage to address Oakland's long-term structural financial problems in a meaningful fashion.
We analyzed the ballot measures not just on their individual merits. We looked at each one in the context of Oakland property owners' overall tax bill. It's something the city leadership and others backing this bevy of new taxes have neglected to consider.
In addition to the two new tax measures proposed, Oakland Unified School District is seeking passage of Measure L, which this newspaper has endorsed.
If passed, it would double that district's existing parcel tax. If X, W and L were to be approved, a property owner's tax bill would go up a minimum of $555 per year. Those with home and mobile phone service would pay even more, depending upon the number of lines.
That is a lot of money for many working people, not to mention those who have no job at all.
We realize that Oakland is facing serious financial challenges. Property tax revenues are continuing to decline. There are projected budget shortfalls far into the future. Oakland also faces $2 billion in unfunded liabilities for public employee retirement benefits.
Yet supporters of the ballot measures have failed to make a convincing case for why voters should take on this extra tax burden. It hardly bodes well when City Administrator Dan Lindheim has warned that the new taxes are no guarantee the city will avoid future deficits.
As we have previously stated, raising taxes every year to plug holes in the budget with no eye toward the future is not a viable strategy.
Measure X would levy a $360 parcel tax per year on each single-family home; $245.95 for each unit in a multifamily unit. For commercial properties, the tax depends on square footage. It would be in effect from fiscal year 2011-12 through 2015-16.
Supporters say the tax will prevent the layoffs of 122 police officers. That a minimum of 75 percent must be used only for police and fire services. Yet there are no guarantees how the money will be used, as we have learned from Measure Y. We recommend a no vote on Measure X. It requires a two-thirds voter approval.
Measure W would add a $1.99 tax per month to residential and business lines, as well as mobile phones; $13 per month tax on trunk lines. The estimated $8 million raised would go into the general fund, which means it could be used for whatever purpose the City Council chooses. We recommend a no vote. It requires a majority vote.
Measure BB is not a new tax but a modification of Measure Y. Voters initially approved Measure Y with assurances that the city would maintain a minimum police staffing level. Taxpayers have paid more than $100 million for the so-called public safety tax, yet the size of the police force has dropped nearly 10 percent.
This would abolish Measure Y minimum-staffing requirements altogether yet allow the city to continue collecting some $20 million a year in Measure Y taxes. We recommend a no vote. It requires a two-thirds voter approval.