City of El Cerrito Sales Tax Increase, Measure R (November 2010)

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A City of El Cerrito Sales Tax Increase, Measure R was on the November 2, 2010 ballot for voters in the City of El Cerrito in Contra Costa County. It was approved.

Measure R increased the sales tax paid on goods and services sold in the city by half-a-cent for seven years. The increase put the overall sales tax rate in the city at 10.25%.[1]

Election results

Measure R
Approveda Yes 5,834 58.50%
These final, certified results are from the Contra Costa County elections office.

Text of measure

The question on the ballot:

El Cerrito Preservation of Citywide Services Funding. To protect and maintain City services, including fire prevention and emergency services; neighborhood police patrols, emergency response times, crime prevention and investigation resources; firefighter and police staffing; earthquake preparedness; afterschool programs for children and teens; senior services; parks; and other general City services: Shall the City of El Cerrito enact a half-cent sales tax for seven years, with citizens’ oversight, annual independent audits, and all funds staying local, none to Sacramento?[2]



The ballot arguments in favor of Measure R were signed by:

  • Janet Abelson, Mayor, City of El Cerrito
  • Ian J. Wong, President, El Cerrito Police Employee Association
  • John Stashik, President, El Cerrito Chamber of Commerce
  • Rune Hoyer-Nielson, Fire Captain, El Cerrito Fire Department/Department Representative Firefighter Local 1230
  • Ronald Egherman, Owner, Marvin Gardens Real Estate, Chair, El Cerrito Environmental Quality Committee

Arguments in favor

Abelson argued in favor of Measure R, saying, "In essence, Measure R is about maintaining the high level of service you have grown accustomed to in El Cerrito including immediate response from our police and fire departments, recreational programming alternatives for our children and older adults and well maintained parks, playgrounds and infrastructure. Over the past decade, you have seen the opening of our new swim center, the City's first true City Hall, the renovation of the Cerrito Theater and currently the completion of major improvements to most of our local streets and roads and San Pablo Avenue. In order to continue our progress and maintain these improvements, we need this additional, temporary revenue."[3]


Through mid-October, $21,717 had been donated to the campaign in favor of Measure R. According to a local newspaper, "Nearly all of the $21,717 in support of the measure came from organizations that represent city employees or from city employees as individuals — including City Manager Scott Hanin, Police Chief Moir and the committee to re-elect Mayor Abelson."[4]


"No on R" campaign logo


Former El Cerrito mayor Ken Berndt signed the ballot argument against Measure R. So did:

  • Denise Sangster
  • Erle H. Brown
  • Peggy Ryan
  • Phillip Stephenson

Arguments against

Some of the arguments Berndt and others were making against Measure R included:

  • Saying the city's budget has "swelled from $14.7 million to over $50 million — a 267% increase" in the past 10 years
  • The city has already had three tax increases in 10 years
  • The number of city employees has increased 40% in the last 10 years
  • "Employees’ total compensation (salary plus pension, benefits, car allowance, and more) has increased dramatically since 2000. The City Manager, for example, earns more than $180,000 in salary plus approximately $70,000 in benefits [pension contributions, car allowance, insurance (health/life/dental/disability), vacation pay, extra management time off, and more], bringing his total compensation to over $250,000. (Source: City of El Cerrito Finance Department.) Other top City of El Cerrito managers receive similar total compensation."

The Contra Costa Times and Oakland Tribune had jointly editorialized for a "no" vote on Measure R, saying, "But raising sales tax rates in a prolonged economic downturn is poor economic policy. Sales taxes weigh most heavily on lower-income residents and they can do considerable harm to businesses that are struggling with small profit margins. While it is true that cities have tightened their belts with spending cuts, there is more they can and should do to save money. Local governments need to negotiate leaner pay and benefits packages with public employees, who generally enjoy considerably higher total compensation than people with similar jobs in the private sector."[5][6]

Controversy over flyer

The City of El Cerrito spent $8,000 of taxpayer money to write, design, print and mail a flyer to El Cerrito residents about Measure R.[4]

Denise Sangster, an opponent of Measure R, decried this use of taxpayer funds, saying, "Government may not take sides in election contests. I think they have taken sides and that has given (supporters) an unfair advantage."

Sky Woodruff, El Cerrito's city attorney, said he thinks the flyer does fall within guidelines for what can be said with taxpayer dollars set out by the California Fair Political Practices Commission. He said, "It's my opinion that the City's flyer does not expressly advocate the passage or defeat of Measure R or unambiguously urge a particular result in the election."

See also

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