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City of Newark Utility Users Tax, Measure L (November 2009)

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Location of Newark in Alameda County
A City of Newark Utility Users Tax, Measure L ballot question was on the November 3, 2009 ballot for voters in the City of Newark in Alameda County, where it was very narrowly defeated.[1]

The Newark City Council voted to put Measure L on the ballot to ask residents if they wanted to approve a 3.9% utility users tax. The tax, if it had been approved, would have started in January 2010 and been in force for six years.[2]

The Measure L tax would have applied to gas, electric, telecommunications and video service bills. Government agencies would have been exempt from the tax.[3] It was projected that the tax, if enacted, would have cost the average Newark household about $12 a month, adding $2.6 million to the city's budget.[4]

Newark is a city of about 42,000 residents near Fremont.

Election results

Measure L
Defeatedd No2,36450.11%
Yes 2,354 49.89%
These final, certified, election results are from the Alameda County election office.

Change from 20 year duration

On August 5, the Newark City Council voted to reduce the length of duration of the tax from twenty years to six years. This occurred after a controversy arose both over the duration of the tax and over the fact that the city council had chosen not to disclose the 20-year-length in the ballot text describing the measure. Residents Dean and Margaret Lewis had asked that the 20-year information be included. "If you want to be upfront, it should be in there. I think Newark residents need to know."[3]

Council members could have included the 20-year duration of the proposed tax on the ballot but originally declined to do so on the basis that consultants had indicated that doing this would decrease its chances of being approved, ultimately deciding, however, to reduce the duration of the tax from 20 to 6 years.[2]

City budget

Newark logo.gif

Members of the city council hoped that the tax would add $2.6 million in tax revenues to city coffers.

Newark's city budget was about $38 million/year in 2009. In July 2009, the city council was forced to cut $1.5 million in spending because tax revenues in the city had declined. The city believed it might have to cut another $3.5 million in 2009.

The city's biggest cuts were to police services, one of the most visible and popular of city services.


The editorial board of the "Contra Costa Times" supported a "yes" vote on Measure L.[5]


A group opposing Measure L was headed by Dean Lewis.[4] The group made these arguments for a "no" vote on Measure L:

  • It is not affordable: "This is a NEW TAX in addition to all the taxes you already pay. How many more can we afford?"
  • The tax is not fixed, but will increase as the cost of utilities goes up.
  • The Silliman Center loses over $3 million a year but the city wants to build a new community center.
  • The city can cut costs through better workforce management and salaries in line with other cities. 53.49% of the city's employees earn more than $100,000/year. The city manager is paid $250,000 and an assistant city manager makes $200,000. The average overtime pay per city worker is $9,132.

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