Oakland property owners may face new parcel tax

March 7, 2011 11:33:09 PM PST
Oakland city leaders held an emergency meeting Monday night to deal with the city's dire financial situation. The City Council decided to ask homeowners to help them out of the mess with a property tax increase.

"The reality is thousands of people cannot keep their property because they cannot pay their taxes," City Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente said.

The debate surrounding the parcel tax was based on the $11 million it will raise. Oakland is facing a $46 million deficit and the council questioned whether it is even worth passing when they know they will have to find more money to balance the budget.

The special election, alone, will cost nearly $1 million and some council members were not willing to risk that money in hopes of raising $11 million.

"I agree there's a fiscal crisis, but if we make this gamble and lose we will be in a worse state than we are today," Councilmember Libby Schaaf said.

Councilmember Pat Kernighan says a $1.99 telephone tax, which was struck down, would force everyone, not just property owners, to bear the burden of the deficit.

"Because everybody in this city votes, and 60 percent of Oakland residents are renters, they get to vote 'yes' on the parcel tax, but they don't have to pay it so we hear a lot of complaints from homeowners," Kernighan said.

Despite all of that, the council still voted to put the parcel tax on the ballot.

Mayor Jean Quan says she conducted an independent poll paid for by development interests and the police and fire unions.

"The polls show that people think that the city is moving forward and they're willing to pay a little bit more in the next five years to keep the city moving forward," Quan said.

Even if the tax passes, Quan says she will still have to cut more services and ask employees to give back. Voters could see the $80 dollar parcel tax on the ballot in June.

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