February 22, 2020

Editorial: Curb Oakland Mayor Schaaf’s insatiable tax appetite

Oakland’s problem isn’t a lack of revenues. It’s the refusal of the mayor and City Council to rein in soaring spending and responsibly pay down debts.

Facing yet another deceptive tax measure on the March 3 ballot, voters should stop enabling this reckless behavior.

Especially when Oakland’s economy is booming. Municipal revenues over the past five years have increased 28 percent, far exceeding expectations.

But, for the city’s elected leaders, there’s never enough. Mayor Libby Schaaf and the City Council, led by Rebecca Kaplan, have an insatiable appetite for property tax revenues.

They complain about the soaring cost of housing while they make the problem worse — for homeowners and for tenants. That’s right: Landlords can immediately pass on the cost of new property taxes to tenants in buildings up to 15 years old, and apply it to other units when a new tenant moves in.

City property owners pay 10 different annual supplemental taxes, on everything from half-century-old public employee pension debt to library services and road repairs. The recent buyer of an Oakland median-priced ($739,217) home, in addition to the base 1 percent property tax rate, would currently pay about $1,900 a year just in extra city taxes.

When it comes time to sell, an 11th tax, on the title transfer of that home, would be nearly $12,000. A 12th tax, for $198 annually, which failed to garner enough voter support in 2018, is pending in court because Schaaf and the council refuse to accept the outcome of the election.

Now, they are seeking approval for a 13th tax, an annual property levy of $148 for a single-family home, with higher fees for apartment buildings and businesses. It would last 20 years and increase annually with inflation.

Enough is enough: Voters should end the city’s tax addiction by voting no on Measure Q.

The real agenda

Ostensibly, this new tax is to help house the homeless and clean up city parks. The homeless angle was an afterthought.

Helping the homeless was added in, and then given top billing on the ballot, when polling showed that a tax for park maintenance, a basic city function that should be funded out of existing revenues, would not garner the necessary two-thirds voter approval.

Oakland municipal revenues over the past five years have increased 28 percent, far exceeding expectations. But it’s not enough for Mayor Libby Schaaf, above. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group) (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)

The amount of the tax, originally conceived to be $68 or $98, was jacked up to $148 when the polling showed the higher amount wouldn’t hurt the results if funds for the homeless were included.

Seriously, this is how policy is made and taxes are conceived in Oakland. It’s all spelled out in a memo from the city administrator to the council.

Never mind that about a third of the $20 million-plus Measure Q would raise annually would go to parks, landscape maintenance and recreational services and, if you read the fine …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Business


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