Council approves wording for March 2024 parcel tax ballot measure

This article was updated on Nov. 9.*

Three weeks after approving the city’s move to make its Municipal Services Special Tax — known more informally simply as the “parcel tax” — from requiring renewal every four years to requiring renewal every 12 years, the council on Monday approved wording for a March ballot measure asking voters for that first 12-year approval.

The March 2024 ballot measure will authorize approval of the tax for 12 years and would for the 2025-2026 fiscal year collect approximately $3,272,000. It would assess residential properties up to 4,999 square feet $743; residential parcels of 5,000 to 9,999 square feet $835; 10,000 to 14,999 square feet $963; 15,000 to 20,000 square feet $1,101; and over 20,000 square feet $1,254.  Developed commercial parcels would be assessed $1,254 (under 10,000 square feet) or $1,882; and multifamily dwelling units $515 each. Piedmont Finance Director Michael Szczech said there are only 13 developed commercial parcels in the city.

The 12-year renewal for the parcel tax comes with a maximum 20 percent increase over the 12 years, with the maximum annual increase of 4 percent of the Consumer Price Index adjustment, whichever is less. 

The current tax, last approved by Piedmont voters in March 2020, expires on June 30, 2025. The city estimates the parcel tax will bring in $2.622 million during fiscal year 2023-24, approximately 7 percent of the city’s total annual revenue. That revenue pays for police and fire protection, street and parks maintenance, and daily city operations.

The city’s paramedic tax, now $18 a year, will remain a separate assessment for now.

The city has had its Municipal Services Special Tax since 1981, and has been approved by Piedmont voters every four years since then. In October, the council moved to change the four-year renewal term to 12 years, largely to provide for more secure long-term planning.

City Attorney Michelle Kenyon said Monday that the new proposed parcel tax, should voters approve it, will be largely similar in scope and purpose to previous ones, though it does add specific calls for funding two additional full-time police dispatchers, and to generate enough revenue to invest in public safety technology and equipment.

Councilmember Conna McCarthy said that, at three recent public meetings led by Police Chief Jeremy Bowers, support for more dispatchers, and an upgraded dispatch center was clearly expressed by the public.

“The need is clear and is supported by the community,” she said.  

The March 2024 ballot measure language approved Monday night, slightly modified from the city staff report in the agenda packet, now reads as follows:

To increase funding for essential police, fire, and paramedic services, maintain Piedmont parks, greenspaces, and public areas, and preserve recreation, public works, and other community services, shall Ordinance 771 N.S. be adopted to renew the City of Piedmont’s expiring four-year parcel tax with a twelve-year parcel tax with annual rates between $743 and $1,254 per single family residential parcel, or $515 per multi-family dwelling unit, subject to CPI adjustment, raising approximately $3,272,000 annually? 

A group made up of council members, city staff, and local residents will now craft 200-word ballot arguments in favor of passage of the Municipal Services Special Tax in 2025, and will seek volunteers to craft a similar-length rebuttal of that support message, also to appear on the March election ballot.

Other business: Bulbouts and traffic island

As part of its consent calendar Monday night, the City Council approved an overall construction budget of $851,274 for safety “bulbouts” along Oakland Avenue at the intersections with El Cerrito Avenue and with Jerome Avenue, and for a permanent traffic island in what the city is calling the Nova Drive/Magnolia Avenue Island Project at that intersection. San Francisco-based Terocons, Inc. was the winning bidder to complete the projects at all three locations.

“Bollards,” short flexible posts used to establish traffic lanes and other motorist parameters, were installed in 2019 at the oddly angled Nova/Magnolia intersections, but some neighbors there said they did little to make that intersection safer, and may have exacerbated the problem. A permanent traffic island will now be built there, replacing the bollards.

Permanent “bulbouts” at the two Oakland Avenue sites are seen as both traffic-calming measures and as a way to make crossing Oakland Avenue at those corners safer for pedestrians, making the roadway narrower at the crosswalks, and making crossing the street safer for pedestrians.

Work on all three intersections is expected to begin in January, depending on weather, and is expected to be finished by late Spring.

Contact Sam Richards at 

(*Editor’s note: This article was updated on Nov. 9. The original version did not correctly capture the services the tax would fund.)

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