Sales-tax increase pitched as perk for parks

A measure that would bolster the Peninsula’s parks while making San Mateo County’s sales tax among the highest in the Bay Area may come before voters as early as June.

Proponents of Parks for the Future — a one-eighth-cent sales tax that failedin November 2006 — kicked off a campaign this week to bring the measure back to the ballot.

Measure A, as it was known in 2006, would secure more than $16 million per year to fund county parks, as well as parks in each city, the Ladera and Highland Recreation Districts and the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District. It would also require city and county parks departments to maintain existing funding to take advantage of new monies.

For the average San Mateo County resident, the tax would cost about $18 a year, said Julia Bott, the executive director of the San Mateo County Parks and Recreation Department Foundation.

Bott said backers of the measure aren’t certain whether they’ll aim for the June or November election, or even wait until 2009. The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors must approve the measure for the ballot by early March. The matter has been tentatively set for review at their Feb. 12 meeting.

Bott estimated that volunteers would need to raise $500,000 to pass the tax, which would raise the county’s sales tax from 8.25 percent to 8.375 percent. If approved by a two-thirds majority, the new tax would bring San Mateo County’s sales-tax rate to the third highest of the nine Bay Area counties, behind Alameda and San Francisco.

The measure may be a tough sell, particularly after only two years, said political consultant David Latterman. A two-thirds vote is tough to secure even when the economy is good, and people generally prefer bonds to taxes, he said.

“People love parks and when you ask them if they’re going to support parks, of course they’re going to say yes. But if it costs them money, that changes everything,” he said. “If there’s not a real groundswell of support for parks, this measure is not going to do much better than it did in 2006.”

tbarak@examiner.com

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