Voter's Edge California Voter Guide
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November 3, 2020 — California General Election
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Special District

Santa Clara County Open Space Authority
Measure T - 2/3 Approval Required

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To continue protecting and preserving natural open spaces without increasing tax rates by: *managing land and water to reduce wildfires and floods; *protecting land around creeks to prevent pollution and improve water quality; *creating urban parks; *preserving wildlife habitats; and, preserving family farms, and healthy food sources; shall the measure to renew Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority's existing $24 annual parcel tax with no increase, generating approximately $8,000,000 annually, until ended by voters, with oversight/audits, be adopted?

What is this proposal?

Pros & Cons — Unbiased explanation with arguments for and against

Information provided by League of Women Voters of San Jose/Santa Clara

The Question

To continue protecting and preserving natural open spaces without increasing tax rates by:

  • managing land and water to reduce wildfires and floods;
  • protecting land around creeks to prevent pollution and improve water quality;
  • creating urban parks;
  • preserving wildlife habitats; and, preserving family farms, and healthy food sources; shall the measure to renew Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority’s existing $24 annual parcel tax with no increase, generating approximately $8,000,000 annually, until ended by voters, with oversight/audits, be adopted?

 

The Situation

The Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority is an independent, public special district created by the state legislature in 1993 to protect the quality of life in Santa Clara County by preserving open space and natural resources. The district includes the unincorporated areas of Santa Clara County and the cities of San Jose, Santa Clara, Campbell, Milpitas and Morgan Hill.

 

The Open Space Authority (OSA) has always been a pay-as-you-go agency. It has no accumulated debt. It has overall revenues of around $12M a year, approximately $8M of which come from Measure Q, a parcel tax enacted in November, 2014. Measure Q was approved by 67.95% of voters who live within the boundaries of the OSA. This measure authorized the OSA to levy a tax of $24 per parcel annually for 15 years. Because of this “sunset clause,” the Measure Q parcel tax will expire in 2029.  

The Open Space’s responsibilities continue to grow; since 2014, the amount of land under the OSA’s jurisdiction has increased from 16,000 acres to 26,000, including 1000 acres recently preserved in Coyote Valley. More land acquisitions are in process. Visitors to OSA properties are also increasing, up to 325,000 in 2019 and then growing to 600,000 during Covid-19.

The OSA is currently working on projects to increase public access and environmental education opportunities at its properties.

The Proposal

Measure T is asking for a renewal of the existing $24 annual parcel tax with no increase, with oversight and audits. Everything about the two ballot measures is the same, except that the sunset clause that was on the 2014 ballot measure will be removed. If approved, Measure T will remain in effect until ended by voters. Since Measure T has no sunset clause, it will renew and extend the current ballot measure.

 

The OSA’s long-term plans include adding over 30 miles of new trails in the next decade, continuing to dedicate at least 25% of funds to an Urban Grant Program, opening a new staging area at Coyote Ridge Open Space, expanding public access at Rancho Canada de Oro, and continuing to work with Santa Clara County to preserve area agriculture.

Measure T will provide a dedicated funding source to plan for and fulfill the OSA’s responsibilities; funds can be used solely for the specific purposes set forth in Section 2 of the Measure’s Resolution.

Measure T requires strict fiscal accountability including an oversight committee and annual audits that will assure all funds from this measure are spent as promised.

Fiscal effect

The ballot measure is asking for a renewal of the existing $24 annual parcel tax (Measure Q) with no increase, and the expected revenue is $8M per year. The OSA has been able to leverage Measure Q parcel tax dollars to bring additional money in to the Open Space District; for every dollar the OSA spends, it brings in three dollars from public and private grants.

Supporters say

  • The lands protected by the OSA improve wildlife corridors that have been impacted by urban growth and climate change, provide opportunities to restore natural floodplains, help protect against wildfires, improve water quality, and help to build a climate-resilient future.
  • The OSA has no ending date for taking care of the lands under its jurisdiction. The OSA needs to be able to rely on its funding sources to plan long-term for such stewardship.
  •  Open space is an important resource for everyone, no matter their background or income level. During Covid-19, it has been important to be able to get outside and hike, bike, and enjoy nature.
  • Measure T does not increase taxes.

 

Opponents say

  • Taxes are killing California by driving businesses and employees out of state. Over 1.5 million Californians have left the state in the past decade due to the high cost of living.
  • Our local communities are currently devastated by the government shutdown of the economy due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The economic fallout from the pandemic affects homeowners and renters alike, making it harder for them to pay a parcel tax.
  • More open space means that less land is available for housing.  The end result is increased home prices and increased cost for rentals.
  • Low and middle-income earners and the unemployed can’t afford to pay regressive parcel taxes.

 

 

 

Measure Details — Official information about this measure

Impartial analysis / Proposal

James R. Williwams, Couny Council

 

 

The Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority (“Authority”) Governing board (“Board”) has placed Measure T on the ballot to extend the existing annual parcel tax of $24 per parcel, that was previously set to expire on June 30, 2029, and to continue the parcel tax on an ongoing basis unless ended by the voters by a future measure. According to the Measure, the parcel tax will raise approximately $8 million per year.

 

 

 

The stated purposes of the parcel tax are protecting open space, redwood forests, wildlife habitat, scenic hillsides and agricultural land; protecting land around creeks, rivers and streams to prevent pollution and improve local water quality and supply; opening, improving and maintain parks, open space, and trails; and providing urban open space, parks and environmental education programs through a competitive urban Grants Program. The measure states that the revenue from the parcel tax will be used only for the purposes set forth in the Open Space, Wildlife Habitat, Clean Water and Increased Public Access Measure Expenditure Plan, which is incorporated by reference into the Measure.

 

 

 

The Authority is required by law to institute additional accountability measures for the tax proceeds. These measures include: (1) using the tax proceeds only for the specific purposes described in the Measure; (2) depositing the tax proceeds into a separate account from other authority funds; and (3) providing an annual written report to the Board detailing the amount of funds collected and expended and the status of any project(s) authorized to be funded by parcel tax proceeds. In addition to these requirements, if the parcel tax is approved the Board will continue to use its existing Independent Oversight Committee to oversee the expenditure of parcel tax revenues.

 

 

 

A “yes” vote is a vote to approve a special tax of $24 per parcel within the Authority on an ongoing basis unless ended by the voters.

 

 

 

A “no” vote is a vote to not approve the tax.

 

 

 

If at least two-thirds of all voters casting ballots in the authority vote “yes” on Measure T, the tax will be approved.

 

 

 

Published Arguments — Arguments for and against the ballot measure

Arguments FOR

 

Vote YES on T to protect our natural open spaces in Silicon Valley.

 

 

 

Open space is an important resource for everyone in our community, no matter their background or income level. It has been so important to have access to open space for walking, hiking, biking and enjoying nature during the COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders.

 

 

 

Now, more than ever, we need to make sure that our local open spaces stay protected and accessible.

 

 

 

Your YES vote makes sure we can continue to enjoy access to trails, improved air quality, and the beautiful views that open spaces provide — ensuring that our children and grandchildren can go outside and enjoy the natural beauty and open space we have today.

 

 

 

Measure T does not increase taxes.

 

 

 

Measure T will continue to protect our last remaining open spaces and hills against development and make sure they remain open to the public and don’t become office buildings and parking lots.

 

 

 

Vote YES: Help Protect Natural Open Spaces

 

  • ·         Continue to enjoy access to trails, improved air quality and open spaces
  • ·         Manage land to reduce wildfires and floods
  • ·         Prevent pollution and improve water quality by protecting lands around creeks, streams, and rivers
  • ·         Protect natural areas and preserve wildlife habitats
  • ·         Preserve local family farms and healthy food sources

 

Not one dollar from Measure T can be taken away by the state, all funds must be spent locally to preserve open spaces in Campbell, Milpitas, Morgan Hill, San Jose, Santa Clara and unincorporated Santa Clara County. An oversight committee and annual audits will ensure all funds from Measure T are spent as promised.

 

 

 

Please join environmental, business, labor, agricultural, health, education and other community leaders in voting YES on Measure T!

 

 

 

Learn more: FriendsofSantaClaraValleyOpenSpace.com

 

More information

News (1)

Santa Clara County Measure T: Nature Preservation Parcel Tax — September 23, 2020 KALW 91.7 FM Local Public Radio
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Who supports or opposes this measure?

Yes on Measure T

Organizations (1)

Elected & Appointed Officials (0)
No on Measure T
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Elected & Appointed Officials (0)

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