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Ballot in November thick with measures
July 18, 2011, 03:30 AM By Heather Murtagh Daily Journal Staff
San Mateo County voters will be faced with questions about raising taxes to generate income for city budgets, affordable housing and school facilities with a number of measures of the November ballot.

While only five measures were approved for the November ballot, a number of others are in the works. Foster City is seeking to raise the hotel tax to raise revenue for its budget. San Mateo is considering a policy measure that would amend the city’s general plan. Redwood City put three measures on the ballot — two which will raise revenue and a third amending the city’s charter. When it comes to schools, voters in the San Mateo-Foster City, San Bruno and Millbrae elementary school districts could vote on bond measures to upgrade facilities. Lastly, the Burlingame Elementary School District is considering a parcel tax, revenue from which could be used for programs.

The Foster City Council was the first to put a measure on the ballot. The City Council is seeking to raise the hotel tax from 8 percent to 10 percent. Foster City officials opted for the measure in hopes of trimming the ongoing structural deficit, now approaching $5 million. Such a measure could generate about $300,000 annually.

Raising the hotel tax is one of three measures that will go before Redwood City voters in hopes of boosting revenue.

The city is proposing increasing its transit occupancy tax from 10 percent to 12 percent, which could mean an additional $640,000 annually. In addition, the city is proposing an increase to its business license tax. The business license tax rate last changed in July 1994 as part of an ordinance which called for an annual 5 percent increase over five years. The rate is currently $37 per business plus $24 for each full-time employee and $12 for each part-time employee.

The recommended increase would change the tax to $59 per business plus $38 and $19 for each full-time and part-time employee, respectively. Increasing the business license tax would generate an extra $825,000 annually for the city.

Lastly, the city is asking voters to change the city charter in part so that the maximum public benefit is another factor when selling or leasing city property. All three measures require a simply majority to pass.

San Bruno voters are also guaranteed a ballot measure this November.

In June, the San Bruno Park Elementary School District Board of Trustees placed a $40 million bond measure with a rate of up to $30 per $100,000 of a property’s assessed value on the ballot. The measure will help with facilities projects including finishing upgrades at Parkside Intermediate School. Bond measures require a 55 percent passage rate.

A number of cities and school districts are still considering ballot measures.

San Mateo officials are discussing an initiative to amend the city’s general plan and municipal code to provide for alternative means of ensuring adequate affordable rental housing.

In 2009, a legal decision said below market rate housing could not be a requirement imposed on rental projects. Instead, San Mateo is considering a fee imposed on developers of rental housing to help pay for affordable housing options. Such a measure requires a simple majority.

The Millbrae Elementary School District appears close to placing a $30 million bond measure before its voters to continue facility upgrades not covered in a 2008 bond of the same size.

An official vote is expected Monday, July 25. Such a measure would allow the district to finish projects not covered with the first bond such as a state-of-the-art cafeteria to accommodate all Taylor Middle School students.

The San Mateo-Foster City Elementary School District is considering asking only Foster City residents to fund a bond to build a fourth elementary school in the city. The board has approved the initial steps to create a separate district allowing it to tax only a portion of its voters. It has not, however, placed the measure on the ballot.

The discussion of building a fourth school began in 2009 when the ever-growing enrollment of Foster City became apparent. Conversations to buy city-owned property never resulted in a solution. Since then, the board has had many closed session conversations about private parcels. A bond measure would make purchasing a site and building a school possible.

Lastly, the Burlingame Elementary School District is discussing a parcel tax to fund programs. Burlingame called a special meeting at the end of the month to discuss the possibility of putting the measure on the November ballot. Such a measure requires a two-thirds approval rating.

Heather Murtagh can be reached by email: or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 105.

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