Nov. 8 ballot measures get their letters and initial arguments
Arguments and rebuttals for measures on the Nov. 8 ballot are now available for review as county officials prepare election guides.
Tiburon Peninsula voters will help decide the fates of three initiatives — a real-estate transfer tax in Belvedere, a parcel tax to preserve the 110-acre Martha Co. property on the southern Tiburon Ridge and a parcel tax in unincorporated areas to help fund the Marin County Free Library system.
The last day to submit measure arguments was Aug. 22, with the 10-day public-examination period ending Sept. 1. Rebuttals were due by Aug. 29, after The Ark’s press deadline, with their 10-day examination period ending Sept. 8.
The arguments may be viewed at the county Elections Department or by request, but they won’t be available online until the county posts its voter-information guides in late September.
• Measure B: Voters in unincorporated Marin, including Strawberry and unincorporated Tiburon, will be asked to increase the Marin County Free Library parcel tax to an initial $98 annually, raising roughly $4.7 million a year for the next nine years. The tax would have an annual escalator. The current tax, as renewed in 2014, started at $49 and has increased to $59 per year.
Revenue would be used to “maintain library hours and 24/7 online library access; enhance programs for children, teens, adults and seniors; increase book/digital collections; provide free internet access and computers; and upgrade library facilities.”
The measure requires two-thirds’ support to pass.
One argument was submitted in favor and none against, so there will be no rebuttals.
The argument in favor was signed by League of Women Voters of Marin County President Ann Wakeley, Novato Mayor Eric Lucan, Marin Superintendent of Schools Mary Jane Burke, Marin County Free Library President Wyna J. Barron and San Geronimo Valley Community Center Executive Director David Cort.
• Measure D: Belvedere residents will be asked to establish the city as a charter city and enact a 0.8-percent real-estate transfer tax to fund the initial $20 million phase of its roadway-and-seawall project “to advance public safety; strengthen infrastructure against earthquakes; support fire suppression; safeguard water, sewer and other utilities; secure evacuation routes; and provide other general services.”
The language of the measure states the city expects to raise $1.6 million annually “to end in 30 years or less,” which appears to suggest the tax will sunset automatically when the $40.5-million bond is paid; at the revenue pace estimated in the measure, that would be in 25 years, though officials expect to pay it off even sooner assuming continued growth in market values. However, the tax sunsets only at 30 years, and revenue would be collected until another ballot measure ended it early.
Measure D requires 50-percent voter approval, rather than two-thirds for most other property taxes, because transfer taxes are general taxes that go to the city’s general fund without an earmarked purpose. Councils will have to choose to allocate the funds toward the infrastructure project.
The submitted ballot argument for Measure D was signed by former mayor and chair of Yes on D campaign Bob McCaskill, along with Mayor Sally Wilkinson, former mayors Tom Cromwell and Justin Faggioli and Belvedere-Tiburon Library Agency board member Roxanne Richards.
They argue that the 80-year-old San Rafael Avenue and Beach Road are built on bay mud and have sunk more than 3 feet, being deemed seismically unstable, with the Beach Road seawall failing twice in five years and requiring emergency repairs. A transfer tax at the time of a real-estate sale could fund these infrastructure repairs, they argue, noting it’s fully deductible for capital-gains purposes, unlike a parcel tax.
The argument against was signed by City Council candidate Richard Snyder and other Accountable Belvedere members David Flaherty, Fred Goldberg, Suzanne du Molin and Gregory Wood.
While that argument states the change to the city charter removes “citizen oversight, accountability and taxpayer protections,” the charter as proposed is tailored to only allow the transfer tax, with no ability to gain more local control without additional voter approval. Under state law, a local government can’t impose its own transaction tax on real estate, though voters can claim that taxing right as a municipal affair under a charter. The charter does not change the state’s two-thirds voting threshold for special taxes, parcel taxes and ad valorem property taxes.
They assert the city is using a general tax to skirt the two-thirds requirement of other property taxes, which officials have acknowledged is an advantage of the tax type. They also say that based on home sales in 2021, such a tax would have raised about $2.3 million, or $68 million over 30 years — not accounting for increases in home values — far more than needed for the project or to repay the bond. With that money going into the general fund, and with vague purposes such as “public safety” and “other general services,” future councils would have too much leeway to spend the money elsewhere. Instead, the group says the city should wait until it’s exhausted all grant opportunities and then return to voters with a revised taxing plan that has a clear and limited purpose.
• Measure M: Voters in Belvedere and in Tiburon south of Trestle Glen Boulevard — residents of the new Tiburon Open Space District — will be asked to authorize the district to issue $23 million in bonds to buy the Martha Co. property, then initiate a $335 annual parcel tax to repay the bonds and pay costs of vegetation management for the property and for the Old St. Hilary’s Open Space Preserve.
The county in June reached an agreement to purchase the property for $26.1 million from the Trust for Public Land, which in turn is buying the land from owner the Martha Co. for $42.1 million.
The tax, which would increase 2 percent annually, is expected to raise about $1.07 million in the first year and ultimately generate $18 million toward the purchase of the property. A portion of the surplus would be used for vegetation management and to pay off the remaining balance of the two 1990s bond measures used to finance the purchase of Old St. Hilary’s preserve, which would then remove the two $98-a-year parcel taxes from property owners’ tax bills.
With the $18 million from the new tax, the county would use $2.1 million in funds from the 1990s Old St. Hilary’s bonds and $6 million in revenue from Measure A, the county’s quarter-cent sales tax to support parks and open-space maintenance, to get to the $26.1 million purchase price.
The measure would also establish a $3-million initial appropriations limit for the new open-space district.
The measure would require two-thirds’ approval from district voters.
The argument in favor was signed by Tiburon Town Councilmember Alice Fredericks, former Belvedere Mayor Tom Cromwell, Tiburon Fire Protection District board member Emmett O’Donnell, Tiburon Open Space President Jerry Riessen and former Reed Union School District board member Dana Linker Steele.
There were no arguments against, so no rebuttals are permitted.
Key dates ahead
The Elections Department will start mailing voter-information guides beginning Sept. 29. Voting opens Oct. 10, the same day the county will begin sending vote-by-mail ballots to all registered voters. Vote-by-mail drop-boxes, open 24 hours, will be available starting Oct. 11, though locations have not yet been determined.
Oct. 24 is the last day to register to vote — though California allows same-day voter registration. Voters will be allowed to register and cast a provisional ballot, pending eligibility verification, at the Elections Department or at a voting center.
On Oct. 29, 11 vote centers will open, with another four opening on Nov. 5, though locations have not yet been determined.
Nov. 8 is Election Day, with the polls open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Voters may still register and cast provisional ballots on Election Day.
Check your voter-registration status at Check your voter-registration status: registertovote.ca.gov.
Reach Tiburon reporter Deirdre McCrohan at 415-944-4634 and Executive Editor Kevin Hessel at 415-435-2652.