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November 3, 2020 — California General Election
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County

Alameda County
Measure V - Majority Approval Required

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Shall an ordinance be approved to extend until 6/30/2033, with no increase to the current 6.5% tax rate, the existing Utility Users Tax, collected only in the unincorporated areas (Ashland, Castro Valley, Cherryland, Fairview, San Lorenzo, Sunol), providing approximately $12 million annually which may fund County Services, including services to unincorporated areas (e.g., Sheriff, Library, Planning, Code Enforcement), retaining current exemptions and exclusions, including exemptions for low income or lifeline utility users, and making clarifying/administrative changes?

What is this proposal?

Pros & Cons — Unbiased explanation with arguments for and against

Information provided by LWV of Alameda

The Question

“Shall an ordinance be approved to extend until 6/30/2033, with no increase to the current 6.5% tax rate, the existing Utility Users Tax, collected only in the unincorporated areas (Ashland, Castro Valley, Cherryland, Fairview, San Lorenzo, Sunol), providing approximately $12 million annually which may fund County Services, including services to unincorporated areas (e.g., Sheriff, Library, Planning, Code Enforcement), retaining current exemptions and exclusions, including exemptions for low income or lifeline utility users, and making clarifying/administrative changes?”

The Situation

Alameda County established a 5.5% utility tax on residents of unincorporated areas in 1992. Voters extended the tax in 1996 and 2000 and raised it to 6.5% in 2008. The tax is collected from consumers by the utility service provider, which then passes on the revenue to the county.
Alameda is one of four counties in the state that levy a utility user tax, and nearly 160 cities rely on this tax for discretionary income. Many cities created utility user taxes in response to state cuts to revenues in the early 1990s and the loss of property taxes. Alameda County’s rate is somewhat higher than that of cities such as Newark (3.25%) and Emeryville (5.5%), though it’s less than the rates in Oakland, Berkeley and Piedmont (7.5% for each).

The Proposal

Measure V would extend Alameda County’s current tax on utility services (covering electricity, telephone, natural gas, and cable) for residents in unincorporated areas of the county. The current tax is 6.5% and is set to expire in June 2021; this measure would extend the current tax rate by 12 years, to June 2033.
The tax would exempt government agencies, life support systems and agricultural uses and those who qualify for low-income rate assistance programs from Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E).1

The measure would not apply to incorporated cities of Alameda County, many of which have their own utility taxes. However, state law requires that all Alameda County residents vote on this measure.

Fiscal effect

It is estimated that the measure would raise $12 million per year. Measure V is a general tax, and revenues collected would be deposited into the county’s General Fund. However, it has been the policy of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to dedicate revenues toward services that benefit the unincorporated areas.

Supporters say

• Measure V would continue existing exemptions for low-income households and those who rely on energy consumption for life-saving medical support.
• Measure V would tax the use of electricity and gas, which contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.

• This measure would raise needed funds in the unincorporated areas of the county, which would otherwise face cuts to services.

• The measure would include exemptions for low income and lifeline utility users.

• Many cities, including Alameda (at 7.5%), levy a utility user tax.

Opponents say

The tax is regressive taking a larger share of income from low-income households.
• The County Council should have considered adjustments for lower rates on renewable sources and less harmful utilities.

• The tax would be deposited into the County’s General Fund so there is no obligation to spend the tax on the unincorporated parts of the county.

• All voters in the County vote for taxes paid only by unincorporated residents. 

Measure Details — Official information about this measure

YES vote means

If this Measure is approved by a majority of County voters, the utility users tax will remain in effect in the unincorporated areas of the County until June 30, 2033, at the current rate of 6.5 percent. This Measure has no effect on utility users taxes that may have been, or will be, enacted by individual cities within the County and does not apply in the cities of Alameda, Albany, Berkeley, Dublin, Emeryville, Fremont, Hayward, Livermore, Newark, Oakland, Piedmont, Pleasanton, San Leandro, or Union City.

NO vote means

A NO vote means the existing Utility Users Tax of 6.5% would expire on June 30, 2021 for unincorporated areas of Alameda County.

Impartial analysis / Proposal

Donna Ziegler, Alameda County Counsel

Measure  (“Measure”) submits to the voters the question of whether the County Utility Users Tax, which is levied only in the unincorporated portions of the County of Alameda (“County”), should be extended to June 30, 2033. If approved, this Measure would maintain the current tax rate at 6.5 percent, extend it to 2033, and make other clarifying and administrative changes to the existing tax ordinance. Without voter approval of this Measure, the current tax will automatically expire on June 30, 2021.

Although the existing tax is collected only in the unincorporated areas of the County, a county-wide vote on the question of extending and amending the tax is required by Article XIIIC, Section 2, of the California Constitution and Government Code section 53723.

The current Utility Users Tax for specified services in the unincorporated areas (e.g., Ashland, Castro Valley, Cherryland, Fairview, San Lorenzo, Sunol) was approved by the Board of Supervisors in December 1992. It has been extended three times by a majority of voters, in 1996, 2000, and 2008. All current tax exemptions and exclusions, including but not limited to, those for low income or lifeline utility users, would remain in place. The tax shall be collected insofar as practicable at the same time as and along with the charges made in accordance with the regular billing practices of the service supplier.

If this Measure is approved by a majority of County voters, the utility users tax will remain in effect in the unincorporated areas of the County until June 30, 2033, at the current rate of 6.5 percent. This Measure has no effect on utility users taxes that may have been, or will be, enacted by individual cities within the County and does not apply in the cities of Alameda, Albany, Berkeley, Dublin, Emeryville, Fremont, Hayward, Livermore, Newark, Oakland, Piedmont, Pleasanton, San Leandro, or Union City.

If the Measure is not approved by a majority of voters, the current tax will automatically expire on June 30, 2021.

This Measure is placed on the ballot by the governing board of the County.

DONNA R. ZIEGLER

County Counsel

 

Published Arguments — Arguments for and against the ballot measure

Arguments FOR

Measure V extends an existing Utility Users Tax that has been collected in Alameda i I County since 1992. It does not increase the current 6.5% tax rate.

A “YES” vote on Measure V will preserve existing revenues that have been used to provide vital services in the unincorporated areas of the County including Public Safety, Libraries, i5 Land Use Planning, and Code Enforcement.  

Measure V preserves tax exemptions for qualifying low income or lifeline utility users and persons on life support systems, protecting some of our communities’ most vulnerable members.

Alameda County’s existing Utility Users Tax is collected only in the unincorporated areas of Ashland, Castro Valley, Cherryland, Fairview, San Lorenzo and Sunol.

Residents living in an incorporated city within Alameda County do not pay the tax that would be extended by approving Measure V.

Measure V maintains accountability to voters by requiring that the County’s Utility Users Tax will expire in 2033 unless voters approve an extension or elimination of that expiration date.

All revenue from the Utility Users Tax will continue to support and preserve essential services with no increase in taxes. Without the nearly $12 million in annual Utility Users

Tax proceeds, vital municipal services to our communities may be cut. A YES vote on Measure V preserves an essential source of funding for vital services to Alameda County residents, with no increase to the existing Utility Users Tax.

s/MELISSA WILK

Auditor-Controller

s/PHONG LA

Assessor

s/KEN CARBONE

Chair, Castro Valley MAC

s/JENNIFER ONG

Chair, Eden Area MAC

 

s/DIANE WYDLER

Secretary/Treasurer, San Lorenzo Village Homes Association

— Alameda County ROV

Arguments AGAINST

Vote NO on Measure V, the ‘Smartphone and Electric Car Tax.’ It’s unfair and deceptive.

Are you tired of rising phone, cable TV, gas, and electric bills? The County perversely wants you to pay higher utility bills. The more you’re charged, the higher the taxes the County collects.

In this time of COVID-19 economic hardship, the County even collects taxes on 'late fees,'collection fees,’ and ’reactivation fees’ charged by utilities! (Section 2.12.095.B) The County sadly profits from its citizens’ misfortune. «

This Utility Tax started 30 years ago as a ‘TEMPORARY Tax.’ This ‘temporary tax’ is extended at every expiration because County politicians are addicted to its money.

Electric cars and smartphones didn’t exist when this ‘temporary tax’ began in 1992. But now they make up a sizeable share of revenues (“charging of batteries” tax), an unforeseen “windfall” filling County coffers.  

Measure V openly admits, “[T]here is no legal obligation that the funds raised be used for any particular purpose.” (Section 2.12.030) This is a General Tax, placed in the General-Purpose Fund. The County can spend it on ANYTHING.  

This Tax MIGHT be spent on popular services such as the ‘Sheriff and Library.’ But this Tax WILL be spent on Alameda County’s BIG problem: Pension Deficits.  

Every household in Alameda County has a debt of $14,269 for County Administration PENSIONS, a Stanford University study found. The true reason for Measure V is to help the Administration ‘bail out’ the pension scheme instead of making necessary structural changes.

The entire County votes on this tax, but not every community is charged it. County Supervisors can divert every penny from places that pay it (Castro Valley, San Lorenzo, etc.) to areas that don’t. That’s taxation without representation. Vote No out of fundamental fairness.

Require HONEST Government and FAIR taxes. Vote NO on Measure V.

 s/MARCUS CRAWLEY

President, Alameda County Taxpayers Association

s/THOMAS RUBIN

Vice President, Alameda County Taxpayers Association

s/TERRI LUTZ

Member

s/PETER KAVALER

Member

s/STEVE KAUSLARICH

Member

— Alameda County ROV

Replies to Arguments FOR

The Argument in Favor explains the problem with this TAX;

  • This temporary Utility Tax has been extended again and again since 1992.
  • All the voters in Alameda County will impose this Tax on the FEW citlzens in the unincorporated areas for the benefit of ALL the Alameda County Citizens.

The Argument in Favor misleads the voters with its FACTS:

  • This Tax goes into the County General Fund and can be spent on ANYTHING. The ‘essential purposes’ are the ‘bait on the hook.’
  • There is NO ACCOUNTABILITY for this tax.
  • The existing (2008) Measure F Utility Tax w1l1 expire in 2021 and its revenues will stop in 2021. So, this Measure V is a NEW TAX.
  • Replacing the expiring Measure F Utlllty Tax with a new (2020) Measure V Utllity Tax is NOT Accountability, it is the County’s deception gimmick.
  • This NEW TAX does NOT preserve existing revenues. Existing revenues will expire in 2021. This NEW Tax imposes NEW revenues.

Therefore, this Measure V Utility Tax does NOT ‘eliminate’ the expiration date of Measure F. An expiring tax CANNOT be extended. Don’t be fooled by clever words. Measure V imposes a new Tax.

Remember the old saying, ‘If he will steal FOR you, he will steal FROM you.’ The County’s gimmick to steal FOR you with this tax. The County will use this same gimmick to steal FROM you.

Demand Honesty. Vote NO.

 s/MARCUS CRAWLEY

President, Alameda County Taxpayers Association

s/THOMAS RUBIN

Vice President, Alameda County Taxpayers Association

s/TERRI LUTZ

Member

s/PETER KAVALER

Member

s/STEVE KAUSLARICH

Member

— Alameda County ROV

Replies to Arguments AGAINST

Measure V continues to protect households experiencing economic hardship by preserving existing tax exemptions for people who qualify for low income utility rate assistance.

Measure V does not increase the tax rate paid by ANY taxpayer. Measure V preserves existing revenues which have been used for vital services in the unincorporated areas of the County including public safety, libraries, land use planning and code enforcement.

Measure V extends the County’s Utility Users Tax temporarily and requires the approval of voters to continue imposing the tax beyond the 12-year extension.

The State has taken $8 billion in Alameda County property tax revenues over the last three decades including over $500 million this year. Without the Utility Users Tax, funds may have to be diverted from critical countywide services to maintain services in the unincorporated areas. Extension of the Utility Users Tax is essential to continuing vital services that affect all residents including those living within unincorporated communities.

Since th’e tax first went into effect in 1992, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors has allocated ALL Utility Users Tax revenues to fund services to unincorporated area residents and businesses during the annual budget process. The Board has NOT allocated ANY Utility Users Tax revenues towards paying for pensions.

Vote YES on Measure V to continue funding vital services in Alameda County with NO tax increase!

s/MELISSA WILK

Auditor-Controller

s/HENRY C. LEVY

Treasurer-Tax Collector

s/KEN CARBONE

Chair, Castro Valley MAC

s/JENNIFER ONG

Chair, Eden Area MAC

s/ASHLEY STRASBURG

Executive Director Castro Valley/Eden Area Chamber of Commerce

— Alameda County ROV
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