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Transit’s Measure VV passes with wide margin

on November 4, 2008


Nov. 5 — Measure VV, which will raise about $14 million dollars a year for AC Transit, passed with nearly 72 percent of the vote.

Fresh on the heels of a projected $20 million shortfall next fiscal year, AC Transit’s seven-member board had urged adoption of Measure VV, which will double the estate parcel tax to help fund the bus system. The measure, beginning July 1, 2009 and extending until June 30, 2019, will increase the estate parcel tax to $96 dollars per year. It will supersede the current $48 parcel tax, which is authorized through 2013. Landowners from San Pablo to Hayward would pay the tax, regardless of whether they use AC Transit. Properties that are tax-exempt, undeveloped, or vacant for at least six months of the year are not subject to the measure.

Rising gas prices and increased employee health insurance and pension costs, set against the backdrop of rapidly decreasing state funding, pushed AC Transit to propose the measure.  Some had argued that raising the bus fare was the sensible solution, but officials decided on a more holistic approach. “The board decided to spread the burden,” said Clarence Johnson, spokesman for AC Transit. “Whether or not people take public transportation, they are benefiting from fewer cars on the road, and it’s just more friendly for the environment.”

During weeks leading up to the election, opinions on the measure were mixed among landowners. “For me, that kind of increase is not a big burden,” said Kejing Song, 55, of Berkeley, a semi-retired computer engineer.  But another resident said the tax could be unfair to some. “Low-income homeowners would pay $96 a year, while affluent renters pay nothing,” said Merrillie Mitchell, a retired Berkeley resident. “At a time when people are losing their homes to foreclosure in record numbers, it is irresponsible to burden financially strapped homeowners with more taxes.”

Public support for Measure VV was strong. Organizations endorsing the parcel tax increase included the League of Women Voters, the Sierra Club, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Oakland Chamber of Commerce. No groups voiced formal opposition to the measure. “But given the nature of our economy as of late,” Johnson said, “it’s anybody’s guess.”

When asked before the election what would happen if the measure didn’t receive the necessary two-thirds majority vote to pass, Johnson said it was ultimately the board’s decision. “But without the additional funding, we couldn’t keep the level of service the we have now,” he added.||||||||||||||||||||||||||

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