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Ballot full of tax measures
August 13, 2011, 04:06 AM By Heather Murtagh Daily Journal Staff

San Mateo County voters will decide on raising taxes to generate income for city budgets, affordable housing and school facilities with a number of measures on the November ballot.

Foster City, San Mateo and Redwood City put measures before voters either raising taxes or amending city plans. Four school districts — San Mateo County Community College and San Mateo-Foster City, San Bruno and Millbrae elementary — are seeking bond money to update facilities while Burlingame Elementary is asking for a parcel tax, revenue which could be used for programs.

City measures

The Foster City Council is hoping to raise the hotel tax from 8 percent to 9.5 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 $250,000 annually.

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

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 which last changed in July 1994 as part of an ordinance calling 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 the maximum public benefit is another factor when selling or leasing city property.

San Mateo officials placed an initiative on the ballot 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 hoping to impose a fee on developers of rental housing to help pay for affordable housing options.

All the city measures require a simple majority to pass.

School measures

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 $30 million bond measure will go before voters in the Millbrae Elementary School District. Such a measure would allow the district to finish projects not covered with the first bond like a state-of-the-art cafeteria to accommodate all Taylor Middle School students.

The San Mateo-Foster City Elementary School District is asking only Foster City residents to fund a bond to build a fourth elementary school in the city. The discussion of building a fourth school began in 2009 when the ever-growing enrollment of Foster City became apparent. Funds from a previous bond measure will cover the purchase price of land. This measure would cover building costs.  

The San Mateo County Community College District Board of Trustees is seeking a $564 million bond measure. Since 2001, the college district has had a clear vision for updating facilities. Late last year, the board began discussing another bond measure to finish projects like science buildings and purchasing new technology. As proposed, the $564 million bond would have a rate of up to $12.92 per $100,000 of a property’s assessed value.

Lastly, the Burlingame Elementary School District is asking voters to support a $76 annual tax for four years, which would create about $589,000 yearly. 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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