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Notes On Upcoming Ballot Measures

Alameda voters face a raft of local measures this November. (File Photo)

Alameda voters face a raft of local measures this November. (File Photo)

Alameda voters will be asked to weigh-in on a number of different tax and rent control ballot measures this fall. Here are some notes on some of those measures.

Alameda Renters Coalition Rent Control Measure
The tenant activist groups ballot measure calls for the creation of an elected rent control board, to govern hearings related to rent adjustments.

Nearby Oakland has a similar process. Connie Taylor, program manager for the Oakland rent adjustment program, told Action Alameda News, “There is currently a three-month waiting period for a hearing at the Rent Adjustment Program. If a landlord or tenant wants to appeal a hearing decision, there is an approximately six to eight-month waiting period for an appeal to be heard.”

City of Alameda Rent Stabilization Ordinance Measure
More details on the specific language of this measure should come back before city council in a rare August meeting, on the eighth of the month.

Landlord’s “No Rent Control” Petition
The Alameda County Registrar of voters is conducting a detailed examination of petition signatures to see if this measure will qualify for the ballot. It’s unlikely to make the November ballot.

Utility Modernization Act – Utility Users Tax
Asked to review the city’s ballot measure, Annette Nellen, a professor in and director of San José State University’s graduate tax program, told Action Alameda News that the current Utility Users Tax ordinance looks broad enough to cover all potential services.

We asked Sarah Henry, public information officer for the City of Alameda, to respond to that, and also to address the question of whether the city’s proposal qualifies as a “tax increase” under Proposition 218, necessitating a two-thirds supermajority from voters.

Henry responded, “The City of Alameda is seeking to modernize the language in its Utilities Users Tax ordinance. Some telecommunications companies have argued their services are not covered despite the broad language in that ordinance. The City believes that by making the ordinance requirements clear, it will be applied consistently and fairly. For example, two customers with different carriers and similar usage could be charged different amounts in UUT. The language proposed in the Utility Modernization Act is familiar to telecommunications companies and therefore, all of those companies should know how to implement it correctly. A number of California cities and counties have already made similar changes.

“In California, a supermajority vote is only required if revenues from a tax are designated for a special purpose which is identified at the time the tax is authorized. The existing UUT and AMP transfer are not designated for a special purpose. These revenues are placed in the General Fund and are budgeted by the City Council each year to fund City programs and services, including police, fire, emergency services, parks and recreation, and street and sidewalk repair. Therefore, they are not special purpose funds and do not require a 2/3 vote.”

School District Parcel Tax
The Alameda Unified School District is asking voters to approve an extension of the existing parcel tax, which expires in 2018. The current parcel tax taxes improved parcels on a “per building-square-foot” basis, and unimproved parcels at an annual flat rate of $299. District officials dropped the $299 flat rate in the extension before voters on the November ballot, to avoid running afoul of tax uniformity issues raised in the Borikas lawsuit over the district’s 2008 Measure H parcel tax.

Based on last year’s roll, some 323 unimproved parcels were taxed, generating $96,577 in revenue under the existing measure.

The new measure also includes an exemption for state disability insurance (SDI) recipients.

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