Albany Ballot Measures L, M, & N – Pros and Cons November 2018

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Continue Half-cent Sales Tax for General Municipal Purposes
50% + 1 required for passage

The way it Is Now

In 2012, Albany voters adopted a sales tax of one half of one percent, to be levied for eight years. Since its passage, the City has used the revenue for a wide variety of essential public services.

What Measure L Would Do if it Passes

Measure L would make a sales tax of one-half of one percent permanent; proceeds would continue to support general municipal functions. A yes vote in favor of the extension would keep the total tax on retail sales in Albany at 9.75% of the purchase price. A no vote would reduce the rate to 9.25%, and there would be no direct sales tax coming to Albany.

Fiscal Effect

The revenue from the current one-half of one percent sales tax currently adds $1.3 million annually to the general fund. Income from the sales tax would continue if the measure passes.

People for Measure L Say

• Measure L does not increase the sales tax rate.
• The revenue goes directly into the City’s general fund, where it helps support the core services of the City, including police and firefighters.
• The current measure helped maintain fiscal stability during the financial crisis that began in 2008; a permanent tax would help keep city income stable in future recessions or depressions.

People against Measure L Say

• This measure proposes to renew the expiring half-cent sales tax with a “forever” sales tax.
• The best way to hold politicians accountable is to require them occasionally to explain how they are managing the tax revenues.
• ​If citizens later want to stop this tax, they might need to circulate a petition to get a measure on the ballot​—​a costly activity​.

To read the full measure, go to​ ​​ and click on Nov., then “Measures”, and then desired ballot measure.

© League of Women Voters Berkeley Albany Emeryville 2018


Special parcel tax for parks and landscaping
A two-thirds vote required to pass

The way It Is Now

In 1996, the voters approved an advisory ballot measure (Measure R) supporting formation of a Landscape and Lighting Assessment District (LLAD) to fund acquisition, improvement, and maintenance of open space on Albany Hill, recreational playing fields throughout the City, and creek restoration. Under the LLAD, property owners in Albany received annual assessments, with the rate for a single-family home set at $69 per year. The City subsequently issued improvement bonds secured by the LLAD revenue. The final LLAD assessments will be levied in fiscal year 2018–19, and the bonds will be fully repaid in September 2019.

What Measure M Would Do if it Passes

Measure M would continue funding for parks, open space, playing fields, etc. using a different legal method—a special parcel tax instead of a Landscape and Lighting Assessment District. The new parcel tax on developed residential and nonresidential property within Albany would begin in 2019. Different sizes and types of property will be charged different amounts: $69 annually for a normal single-family residential parcel; $51.75 annually per residential unit for an apartment, condominium, or townhouse; $69 annually for a nonresidential parcel of less than 0.25 acre; $259 annually per acre for parcels of 0.25 acre or greater. Tax rates would be adjusted annually for inflation, based on the Consumer Price Index for the Bay Area. The tax would be collected by Alameda County along with regular property taxes. The tax would not have an automatic expiration date; it would remain in effect unless terminated by the voters.

Because the revenue from the parcel tax is legally restricted to certain specific purposes, it is classified as a “special tax,” not a “general tax.” All revenue from the tax would be placed into a special account and restricted to the uses authorized in the ordinance. The City’s Finance Director would be required to prepare and submit to the City Council an annual report regarding the collection and expenditure of the special tax revenues.

Fiscal Effect

The revenue from the special parcel tax created by Measure M would be greater than the income from the soon-to-expire LLAD.

People for Measure M Say

• Parks, playing fields, and open space are essential to the quality of life in Albany.

• More income for park maintenance will be needed in the future because the City has added more open space on Albany Hill and a new park.

• As the climate changes, additional maintenance will be needed for healthy, fire-resistant vegetation and adequate water supplies.

People against Measure M Say

• The phrase in the text of the proposed ordinance, “including but not limited to,” allows anything to qualify as an approved expenditure; special parcel taxes must describe their purposes exactly.

To read the full measure, go to​ ​​ and click on Nov., then “Measures” and then desired ballot measure.

© League of Women Voters Berkeley Albany Emeryville 2018


Change City Treasurer position from elected to appointed
50% + 1 required to pass

The Way it is Now

Currently Albany has a Finance Department Director, who reports to the City Manager, and a City Treasurer, who is elected every four years by the city at large; each manages some of the finances for the City. In 2018, the City hired a consulting firm to review the operations and organization of the Finance Department and City Treasurer’s office to identify areas for improvement. The resulting report * states that the day-to-day financial functions are performed by the Finance Department under the Finance Director, while the City Treasurer is a part-time position with a mostly advisory role. Further, a survey of five nearby cities of comparable size found that only one had an elected City Treasurer while in the others, the Financial Department controlled City finances. Based on these findings, the consultants recommended that Albany (1) convert the City Treasurer position from elected to appointed, (2) add the current City Treasurer functions to the duties of the Finance Director, and (3) create a committee to provide transparency and independent oversight of the City’s finances. Measure N addresses the first of these recommendations.

What Measure N Would Do If it Passes

Measure N would amend the City Charter to change the Treasurer from an elected to an appointed position. The amendment would take effect December 10, 2020 (the end of the current City Treasurer’s term), or sooner, if there is a vacancy in the office.

Fiscal Effect

If the Finance Director took on the tasks of the City Treasurer as recommended, the city would save the cost of supporting the City Treasurer, approximately $77,000 (the 2017–18 budget for the City Treasurer position was $76,642, which included $38,340 for salary, $32,402 for benefits, and $5,900 for other expenditures).

People for Measure N Say

  •   Changing from an elected to an appointed City Treasurer would modernize and improve the efficiency of the Finance Department.
  •  The change would result in better financial oversight and more transparency, as the Finance Director, who is accountable to the City Manager, and thus the City Council, would take on the functions of the Treasurer, and a Finance Advisory Committee—consisting of a council member, the Finance Director, and citizens with relevant experience—would hold regular open sessions to review the City’s finances.
  •  Albany would save the cost of maintaining the budget for an elected Treasurer, approximately $77,000.

People against Measure N Say

  •   The City Treasurer must continue to be independent to protect the best interests of the voters and taxpayers.
  •  The measure fails to explain how a Treasurer appointed by, and beholden to, the City Council would protect the citizens’ best economic interests.
  •   The argument that the proposed Advisory and Oversight Committee would provide transparency is without basis—such committees have NO access to transparency on finances and NO real authority to right any wrongs.


To read the full measure, go to​ ​​ and click on Nov., then “Measures” and then desired ballot measure.

© League of Women Voters Berkeley Albany Emeryville 2018