Pros & Cons: Berkeley Measure F NOV, 2014

Measure F: Berkeley Parks Tax

  • 2/3 Majority Required

The Question: Should Berkeley increase the Parks Tax to sustain community parks like the Rose Garden, children’s playgrounds, tennis and basketball courts, and ball fields by increasing the tax rate per taxable square foot by 2.1 cents from 12.6 cents to 14.7 cents — and revising the inflation factor?

What Measure F Would Do: Measure F would increase the existing special tax for parks, trees and landscape maintenance from the rate of 12.6 cents to 14.7 cents—an increase of 2.1 cents per square foot. Property taxes on buildings would increase 21 cents per 100 square feet. For example, tax on a 1,900-square-foot building would increase from $238.64 to $278.54. This rate would change each May based on the California Consumer Price Index [CPI] or on the per-capita income growth in the state of California. The City would spend the tax on deferred and ongoing maintenance and operation of City parks and recreation facilities. The tax increase would take effect July 1, 2015. If the tax does not pass, city park services will continue to be reduced.

The Way It Is Now: The Parks Tax Fund has been operating at a deficit since 2010. The Parks and Recreation Dept. has reduced positions and capital expenditures: it has been drawing on and reducing the Parks Tax Fund reserves. At the current rate, the Parks Tax will have a $500,000 shortfall, which will use up the reserves and cause a Parks Tax Fund deficit by 2017, according to a staff report to the City Council.

Supporters Say:

  • Berkeley maintains 52 parks including 48 play areas; 21 turf medians, triangles, and dividers; 44 parking and vacant lots; 75 paths, walks and steps; and 50 undeveloped paths. The current revenue is not enough to keep these facilities in good condition.
  • Berkeley parks and play areas are an important asset to the community. People of all ages use and enjoy the parks.
  • Maintaining our parks keeps us safer and costs less in the long term. If the rate is not raised, our parks and grounds will continue to deteriorate. Ultimately, we will have to pay much more to repair and maintain them.
  • Lawsuits for injuries will increase. To keep park and playground users safe, our facilities must be in good repair, clean and sanitary and debris and garbage must be removed.

Opponents Say:

  • Vote no on this and all tax measures until the City addresses its unfunded liability for staff pensions and reforms its mismanaged administration. Income from the existing parks tax has increased, yet staff has been reduced and parks have deteriorated.
  • The measure does not provide for long-needed capital improvements to swimming pools, tennis courts and ball fields.
  • Berkeley should hold down tax increases that are based only on the size of one’s property and taxes that increase as the cost of living goes up.
  • Not all Berkeley citizens are paying for the use of the parks; the burden is put only on property owners.

The full text of Measure F:

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