The Utility Modernization Act asks voters to affirm a roughly $3.5 million annual transfer of Alameda Municipal Power revenues to the city’s general fund, and approve a broadening of the tax base for the utility users tax, which applies to services such as telephone and cable television.
While the measure doesn’t strictly increase the tax rate for those utility services, city staffers have clearly stated a goal is to increase taxes raised by the utility users tax by $1.5 million annual, replacing revenue lost in the past nine years, as new digital services have proliferated and escaped the strict letter of the current tax ordinance.
The Mayor, who voted last month against putting the measure before voters, previously filed a ballot statement advising caution.
In her rebuttal argument, Spencer uses sterner language, writing, “I was inclined to support [the measure] until:” and enumerating four reasons, including a “deceptive mantra of ‘no increase in tax rates'” and the risk that the money goes to “well-paid City employees (over 150 earn $200,000 to $400,000 annually), [to] increase their pension benefits and the City’s unfunded pension liabilities” and not to parks and other services.
Spencer also wrote, “after I voted against [the measure,] I believe the City Manager retaliated by falsely accusing me of wanting to bankrupt Alameda and canceling my meetings with City Staff. To the contrary, I vote against fiscally irresponsible long-term employee contracts and lack of full disclosure to taxpayers. The City must be transparent and honest with voters, make fiscally sustainable decisions and not create undue tax burdens.”
She close her rebuttal expressly urging voters to reject the measure.
In their rebuttal, proponents re-iterated the necessity of the measure to protect public services, and said that some cell phone companies are unfairly not collecting the utility users tax. Further, they say, a vote in favor of the measure simply reinforces existing law with regards to the Alameda Municipal fund annual transfer.
The City of Alameda has been fighting a lawsuit that asserts the transfer is, in essence, a special tax never approved by voters.
Both rebuttal statememnts are reproduced below.