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Smart Voter
Alameda County, CA November 4, 2014 Election
Measure F
Increasing the Parks, Trees, and Landscaping Maintenance Tax
City of Berkeley

Ordinance - 2/3 Approval Required

Pass: 27573 / 75.08% Yes votes ...... 9151 / 24.92% No votes

See Also: Index of all Measures

Results as of Dec 28 11:38am, 100.00% of Precincts Reporting (107/107)
Information shown below: Arguments | Full Text

Shall the parks special tax be amended to sustain community parks like the Rose Garden, children's playgrounds, tennis, basketball courts, and ball fields, by increasing the per square foot tax rate from $0.1256 to $0.1466 and adding an inflation factor?

Financial Implications The annual cost increase in fiscal year 2016 would be $39.90, from $238.64 to $278.54, for a 1,900 square foot home and $210, from $1256.00 to $1466.00, for a 10,000 square foot building.

  Nonpartisan Information

California Secretary of State's Office

City of Berkeley League of Women Voters News and Analysis

East Bay Express

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Arguments For Measure F Arguments Against Measure F
Berkeley Parks Urgently Need Help. Since 1974, Berkeley has doubled our park acreage, bringing the total to 52 parks, 30 park buildings, 100 pathways and 35,000 trees in the urban forest. In the last decade, growth in total population has increased both park usage and the cost of keeping our parks safe and clean. Heavy use and weather have also taken a toll on park facilities, which urgently need repair. Although the City has reduced park staffing by 25% and cutback on maintenance, the parks' budget faces a deficit. Without a modest increase in the parks tax, it will be necessary to cut services in all of our parks, reduce landscaping and tree care, and consider closing some parks.

All Funds Go Directly to Parks, Landscaping and Trees. Measure F will ensure that our park heritage is properly cared for. It will improve Berkeley's precious parks, from the waterfront to the hills, from Aquatic Park to the Rose Garden, including tot lots, playgrounds, sports fields, basketball and tennis courts, and care for landscaped medians and city street trees. It will also ensure that the buildings in our parks, centers of activities from wheelchair basketball to art exhibits, are kept in good shape.

Parks Meet Basic Needs and Build Community. Parks and city landscaping are vital to every neighborhood. No matter where you live in Berkeley, your age or occupation, everybody needs a city that is beautiful, livable and healthy, with activity centers for children that are walkable from all neighborhoods. Parks provide healthy activities for our children and youth, recreation for all ages, a place for festivals and informal gathering at the community level that builds communities in our neighborhoods.

We Love Our Parks: Let's Take Care of Them.

Vote Yes on Measure F

Nancy Bickel, President, League of Women Voters of Berkeley, Albany, Emeryville
Douglas Fielding, Chairperson, Association of Sports Field Users
Loni Hancock, State Senator
Jim McGrath, Chair, Parks & Waterfront Commission
Sylvia McLaughlin, Environmental Pioneer; Co-Founder, Save San Francisco Bay Association

Rebuttal to Arguments For
We too love our parks and other Berkeley amenities, but . . .

Measure F won't ensure that our parks are cared for.

Despite a cornucopia of promises, proponents don't specify exactly where the new tax money would go. They even admit that, despite doubled revenue, staffing has been cut drastically. Will revenue be used simply to cover growing benefit contributions for remaining parks employees (who currently pay zero for retirement, health insurance, and other benefits)? Who knows?

Consider the original 1997 parks measure which made similar promises

and consider the current situation. Despite the promises, as revenues doubled our parks decayed and the number of park employees shrank. Our parks were not underfunded, they were mismanaged. This is not likely to change.

Our officials refuse to address the underlying issue of true sustainability for current and future generations

Quick short-term fixes paid by hard-pressed homeowners (most lacking lush benefits) do not address the problem of deep structural deficit and municipal financial sustainability. With huge costs looming for employee benefits and capital improvements, there is no long-term plan or effort to share the cost burden among other big stakeholders--especially, City employees, UC, developers. Without a plan and fairer cost-sharing, our facilities, services and amenities will continue to deteriorate. We will have fewer and fewer City employees, each compensated at ever-higher levels. View compensation levels at

Join your friends and neighbors in demanding fiscal accountability, clarity, transparency and sustainability. Do not capitulate to extortion. Vote no on Measure F.

David M. Wilson, Director, Berkeley Budget SOS
Barbara Gilbert, Treasure, Committee for FACTS (Fiscal Accountability, Clarity, Transparency, and Sustainability)
Isabelle Gaston, President, Northeast Berkeley Association (NEBA)
Nigel Guest, President, Council of Neighborhood Associations (CNA)
Karl J. Reeh, President, LeConte Neighborhood Association

As Parks Tax Revenues Rose, Our Parks Decayed

The original 1997 parks measure promised to fund parks, trees and landscaping maintenance. The original tax rate and the revenue generated have since almost doubled. The average homeowner already pays $240 annually for parks. Yet today we have far fewer maintenance staff (down 26% from 2002) being compensated substantially more each, and very deteriorated facilities. There is a $5M backlog just in basic repairs. Capital projects have been shelved. This is gross mismanagement.

Now the City wants 17% more annually and a bigger inflator! But new money will go into a dark hole of ever-increasing employee costs--underwriting huge City pension liabilities (to $54.8M annually in 2020 from $43M today) and growing health care costs.

$1B in Unfunded Liabilities and No Plan

Similar mismanagement pervades all City operations. Despite substantially increasing revenues, the City has substantially less money for actual services. Employee compensation absorbs most new moneys. We have a $1B unfunded liability for employee benefit costs and infrastructure. We urge a NO vote on Berkeley tax measures until we have a comprehensive Fiscal Action Plan and a Blue Ribbon panel to address this looming insolvency.

This Tax Increase Would Worsen the Problem and Delay Fairer Allocation of Costs

Nickel-and-diming taxpayers and threatening loss of facilities (witness Willard Pool!) is wrong and won't even solve the big budget problem. We need a sound and transparent long-term fiscal plan that includes fairer contributions from ALL stakeholders--City employees, UC, developers, philanthropists--and not just taxpayers who already pay too much and get too little.

Voting for this tax increase would delay and worsen the day of reckoning. A NO vote will incentivize City managers, employees, Council and other stakeholders to start fixing the big fiscal problem.

We urge you to vote NO.

David M. Wilson, Director, Berkeley Budget SOS
Barbara Gilbert, Treasurer, Committee for FACTS (Fiscal Accountability, Clarity, Transparency and Sustainability)
Isabelle Gaston, President, Northeast Berkeley Association (NEBA)
Nigel Guest, President, Council of Neighborhood Associations (CNA)
Karl J. Reeh, President, LeConte Neighborhood Association

Rebuttal to Arguments Against
Livable Cities Need Healthy Parks

Opponents of the Park Tax increase agree that we have "very deteriorated facilities," yet urge you to vote no, because they take issue with the City's overall budget. Yet delaying major maintenance only increases long term costs as buildings and facilities continue to deteriorate.

Currently, around $10 million is generated by the existing park tax. This is just over 4% of the City budget. The proposed tax increase would generate about $1.7 million or 0.5% of the City budget. Voting no on this measure will not change the City's budget picture--but it will result in the deterioration or closure of some of Berkeley's parks.

Berkeley has taken significant steps to address the concerns raised by the opponents. Between 2009 and 2014, the City eliminated about 250 jobs--15% of the work force. Most city employees have not received a cost of living increase in three years.

Just as literacy is an important community value reflected in a special tax for our five libraries, so too is ensuring that our parks and recreation centers, our "outdoor living rooms," are properly cared for and repaired. Measure F makes a modest investment in a legacy we inherited, parks and open spaces from our cherished Rose Garden to our smallest tot lots, built and cared for by Berkeley residents of every generation.

Support Healthy Living. Join the Sierra Club, City Auditor and a host of park supporters and vote yes for parks.

Nancy Bickel, President, League of Women Voters of Berkeley, Albany, Emeryville
Josh Daniels, Berkeley School Board President
Ann-Marie Hogan, City Auditor
Toni Mester, Vice Chair, Parks & Recreation Commission; Sierra Club No. Alameda Co. Executive Committee
Susan Wengraf, Berkeley City Council

Full Text of Measure F
Note: deleted text is struck through; added text is in boldface type.

Be it ordained by the people of the City of Berkeley as follows:

Section 1. Sub-section 7.10.020.B of the Berkeley Municipal Code is hereby amended to read as follows: B. The tax rate for the fiscal year 2001-02 2016 shall be 8.90 $0.1466 per square foot of taxable improvements provided that this rate shall be increased or decreased annually in May 2001 pursuant to Section 7.10.020.D to account for changes in the cost of living in the San Francisco Bay Area during the period of May 2000 to May 2001. Section 2. Sub-section 7.10.020.C of the Berkeley Municipal Code is hereby amended to read as follows: C. The tax imposed by this chapter shall be operative on July 1, 19972015. Section 3. Sub-section 7.10.020.D of the Berkeley Municipal Code is hereby amended to read as follows: D. The tax shall may be increased or decreased annually in May, according to the greater of the increase or decrease in the cost of living in the immediate San Francisco Bay Area or personal income growth in the state of California, as verified by official United States economic reports.

Section 4. Section 7.10.110 of the Berkeley Municipal Code is hereby amended to read as follows:
7.10.110 Increase appropriations limit. Pursuant to California Constitution Article XIIIB, the appropriation limit for the City is increased by the aggregate sum authorized to be levied by this special tax for each of the four fiscal years from 20163-14 through 2016-172019.

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