3 East Bay cities seek voter OK in November for higher sales taxes

San Mateo County board votes against asking for tax hike

Three East Bay cities are asking voters to approve sales tax increases on the Nov. 2 General Election ballot to help reduce municipal budget deficits at the same time San Mateo County supervisors failed to get enough votes for a sales tax increase of their own.

The sales tax in Alameda County now stands at 9.75 percent, the highest in the state.

The Concord and Antioch city councils each unanimously passed resolutions Tuesday night to place proposals on the November ballot that would increase sales taxes by .5 percent as a way to close their budget deficits. If a majority of voters in each city support the measures, the sales tax in each city would be raised to 9.75 percent, or an additional 50 cents for every $100 of taxable purchases.

Items such as groceries, prescription medications and utility bills would not be subject to the tax, according to Concord City Manager Dan Keen.

Antioch's tax would expire in eight years and Concord's in five years. Both require a majority plus one vote to pass.

On July 19, the El Cerrito City Council also passed a similar resolution. El Cerrito's tax, which would expire in seven years, would bring that city's sales tax to 10 percent, the highest sales tax in Contra Costa County.

Shoppers in Pinole, Richmond and El Cerrito already pay 9.75 percent, according to the California Board of Equalization. As of April 1, all other cities in Contra Costa County now pay 9.25 percent.

In all three cities, the new tax would be used to fill existing budget deficits so that the cities could maintain their current service levels. The tax would not be used for special projects and would be subject to scrutiny from citizens' oversight committees.

Perhaps most importantly, the tax would stay in each city where it was imposed. The state would not be able to take any of it. According to Concord City Councilman Mark Peterson, the state has taken $33 million from Concord alone in the past decade, and the city has reduced its staff by 25 percent.

All three cities have said they have made all the budget cuts they can. If voters don't approve the new taxes, the city councils will have to start reducing their police forces.

But also Tuesday, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors voted not to put a sales tax measure on the November ballot. The proposed quarter-cent increase would have generated $30 million annually for the county, but a plan to put it on the ballot only got the support of two of the five supervisors, spokesman Marshall Wilson said.

The county is looking at a budget deficit of more than $100 million for the next fiscal year, Wilson said.

The county's sales tax rate is 9.25 percent with the exception of the city of San Mateo, which has a 9.5 percent tax for retail transactions, according to Wilson.

The three supervisors who voted against the plan said the county could make additional cuts before asking for the help of voters, who are dealing with the bad economic climate, and that recently enacted bridge toll hikes should help, Wilson said.

The two supervisors in favor of the plan, Board President Richard Gordon and Supervisor Rose Jacobs Gibson, argued that this is "precisely the time" to ask for a tax increase because "people in need come to the county for help, and we need to be able to have funds to provide them with that assistance," Wilson said.

All of the supervisors agreed, though, that it would be a struggle to mount a successful campaign so close to the November election, he said.

Wilson said the county has never asked voters for a general sales tax measure. He said supervisors discussed possibly proposing the measure again in 2012.

Bay City News contributed to this report.

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Like this comment
Posted by maja7
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Jul 29, 2010 at 7:23 pm

Since we're paying the highest in the state (Alameda county at 9.75%), I don't have much compassion for those cities that aren't even paying that rate. San Mateo County doesn't want to increase the current sales tax quarter-cent increase because it's a difficult time for all of us. Yes, and it's going to get more difficult when they start cutting the police, fire and teachers in their city.

We all have to tighten our belts and 'suffer' a little otherwise the suffering is going to be widespread and severe. Oh well....

Like this comment
Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jul 30, 2010 at 2:04 pm

.....or the state could reign in spending. But hey, taxing is easier.

Like this comment
Posted by maja7
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Jul 30, 2010 at 7:20 pm

Pleasanton Parent...I agree with you 100%. This outrageous spending needs to stop. But then, the talking heads go on TV/internet, etc. and tell how this program is being cut, etc. The special interest groups don't want their programs cut, just cut someone else's. It's a vicious circle we've gotten ourselves into. Now, that the economy is bad due to our overspending on entitlement programs, union contracts, etc. etc. it's all coming back on us.

Not a night goes by on the News, where we do not see various cities let firemen and policemen go; teachers have been laid off. Maybe we need to get back to what is essential in our community and go from there. It's gonna get messy before it gets better.

Like this comment
Posted by PaoliPete
a resident of Walnut Hills
on Aug 16, 2010 at 11:32 am

hey move to philadelphia

state sales tax 6%.

state income tax 3.07%

No tax on pensions.

No prop 13.

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Ridgeview Commons

on May 30, 2017 at 3:12 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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