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Measures to raise taxes in Berkeley win at the polls
[November 06, 2008]

Measures to raise taxes in Berkeley win at the polls

(The Oakland Tribune (Oakland, Calif.) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Nov. 6--BERKELEY -- Homeowners will pay about $100 more a year on their property tax bills following the passage of two measures that will expand and upgrade the four branch libraries and the tool-lending library and improve fire service throughout the city, according to preliminary returns from the Alameda County registrar of voters.

Both Measures FF and GG had the two-thirds majority needed to win, according to returns posted Wednesday.

"I'm thrilled that the voters, the citizens of Berkeley, had the foresight to realize the importance to the whole community to rehabilitate the branch libraries," said Amy Roth, the president of Friends of the Berkeley Public Libraries.

Most of the branches have not been renovated for more than 30 years and findings from a study last summer show that buildings are overcrowded, structurally unsafe, and lack handicap accessibility and the infrastructure to meet future technology needs.

Money from the measure will be used to bring the library branches up to code, restore and refurbish historic features, and add space.

The $26 million bond measure will increase homeowners' property taxes by about $27 annually over 30 years, roughly two cents per $100 of a home's assessed value. Commercial property owners will also be taxed about two cents per $100 of assessed value of the property.

Measure FF got about 68 percent of the votes while Measure GG for fire service logged about 72 percent of the

vote, according to unofficial results from the registrar.

Outcomes could change because there are about 120,000 absentee ballots in Alameda County that still need to be counted as well as thousands of provisional ballots still not counted, said registrar spokesman Guy Ashley. The registrar will update the figures today ?and certify the results Dec. 2.

"(Passage of this measure) is a sign that people want certain minimal emergency service standards in Berkeley and they are willing to pay for it even in hard economic times," said union President David Sprague-Livingston.

The measure was almost solely funded by firefighters who assessed themselves, taking money out of their paychecks, said firefighter Adam Cooke. The campaign raised about $98,000 and spent most of it, he said.

Measure GG will raise about $3.6 million in fiscal 2009 to prevent fire station closures, put paramedics at each station, fund neighborhood disaster preparedness and upgrade radio communication equipment.

Improvements will begin July 1, 2009, but any temporarily fire station closures will be stopped immediately, Sprague-Livingston said.

The measure will increase homeowners' taxes by about $78 annually, while nonresidential building owners will pay $118 more each year.

The Berkeley Alliance of Neighborhood Associations and Berkeleyans Against Soaring Taxes campaigned heavily against both measures.

Other winners Tuesday according to preliminary returns were Measure HH, which will allow the city to continue collecting previously voter-authorized taxes; Measure II, which will give the city more time to redraw council districts after each census; and Measure JJ, a resubmission of the Patient's Access to Medical Cannabis Initiative Ordinance.

Measure KK, which would have required voter approval before traffic lanes could be reduced for rapid bus lines, and Measure LL, which would have expanded city authority over the city's Landmark Preservation Commission, lost at the polls.

Kristin Bender covers Berkeley. Reach her at Read her blog at

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