Peninsula parks lose extra green

Tax-weary voters have rejected Measure O, which promised to spruce up Peninsula parks but would have raised the county’s sales tax to among the highest in the Bay Area.

With 191 out of 553 precincts reporting, voters shot down the measure, aka Parks for the Future.

The measure, which needed twothirds approval, would have raised San Mateo County’s sales tax from 8.25 percent to 8.375 percent, making it one of the highest in the Bay Area, second only to Alameda and San Francisco counties.

Peninsula residents faced several tax measures on Tuesday’s ballot. In addition to Measure O, if absentee ballots were any indication, Half Moon Bay voters appeared poised to increase the city’s hotel tax from 10 percent to 12 percent. With zero out of eight precincts reporting, it remained unclear whether voters in Pacifica would pass a parcel tax to support the Pacifica School District.

It also remained unclear if Millbrae residents, with five out of 17 precincts reporting, would pass a parcel tax to help the Millbrae Elementary School District.

San Mateo County Manager Mary McMillan said Tuesday that as county schools and programs continue to bleed from state cutbacks, local officials may seek to bolster funding through tax measures. Supervisors already are talking about lobbying the state to increase the alcohol tax, McMillan said.

Critics of Measure O claimed raising the sales tax during an economic downturn would unfairly burden the poor, and that county homeowners, already buried under a mountain of special parcel taxes, did not need a sales-tax hike.

But some county voters believed the average cost of $2 per month was worth the payout for wellmaintained parks with working

restrooms and intact recreational programs. Mary Hockaday, a 38-year-old homemaker from Redwood City, already pays her fair share of taxes.

Last year, Hockaday and her husband paid $2,689 in property taxes, including nearly $162 to pay back voter-approved bonds for the Redevelopment Agency of Redwood City, Sequoia Union High School District and the San Mateo County Community College District.

But Hockaday says the cost of living in San Mateo County gave her all the more reason to vote yes to a tax to support the parks.

“We can’t always afford Disneyland, so I want to know when I take my daughter to the park, it will be well-maintained,” she said. “The tax isn’t much — it’s one less cup of coffee at Starbucks.”

The $16 million annual proceeds from Measure O would have been used to fund county and city parks, the Ladera and Highland recreation districts and the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District. Tuesday was not the first time voters weighed in on the measure. Parks for the Future, then known as Measure A, was defeated in 2006.

tbarak@sfexaminer.com

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