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YES on Measure R, the Proposed Half-Cent Sales Tax Increase

Mayor Janet Abelson argues in favor of the Nov. 2 ballot measure to boost El Cerrito's sales tax to 10.25 percent.

YES on Measure R, the Proposed Half-Cent Sales Tax Increase

Residents of El Cerrito –

I am very proud to be the Mayor of El Cerrito, and I have been proud to serve the residents of this community for the past 10 years.  But maybe more important, I have been a resident since 1970. This is the community in which I have lived, worked, and raised my family – I truly care about this City.  Now, more than ever, we need to protect the quality of life that makes El Cerrito great.

We need to keep our money in El Cerrito to protect our services and our community – we need Measure R. Over the past several years a commitment to fiscal prudence, strong neighborhoods, and excellent City services and staff has created the El Cerrito that we all enjoy. Without Measure R, the recession, continued State takeaways, falling home prices, and strained revenues could destroy our high quality of life.  The choice is simple: it's between maintaining the City that is a great place to live or letting the community crumble under the State's fiscal crisis.

We have taken difficult steps to address these fiscal challenges.  We have reduced staff by nearly 10% including police officers, firefighters, and parks/recreation staff and negotiated approximately $1 million in wage reductions from employees. Unfortunately, we simply can't cut any more without impacting our high quality services. 

I urge the residents of El Cerrito to voting Yes on R to restore or maintain critical services such as:

  • Fire protection and emergency medical services
  • Rapid emergency response times
  • After school programs for children and teens
  • Filling of firefighter and police vacancies
  • Maintenance of City parks, playgrounds, athletic fields/courts, swim center and senior center.

Much of this problem is caused by the State Raids year after year. Did you know that Sacramento has taken $22 million of El Cerrito's money over the past 15 years to solve the State's budget problems? And as we finish the summer without a State budget spending plan, cities and counties can only assume that Sacramento will try to balance the budget on our backs again! Measure R will give El Cerrito protected and reliable local control over local funds for local needs — No funds can be taken by Sacramento.

Recently, you may have heard about salary and pension abuses in a city in Southern California, and I want to assure you that those types of abuses would never be tolerated in El Cerrito. In fact, compensation for El Cerrito employees is based on level of responsibility and periodic surveys of comparable positions in similar cities. Staff compensation is set at the "median" level which means half of the cities in our survey pay above and half pay below our compensation level. However, because of the current economic crisis, compensation has been essentially frozen for many City employees. This year, some of our employee groups were contractually entitled to median adjustments, yet our Police Employee Association recently agreed to defer most of a 14% median adjustment to help the City in these difficult financial times, and other employee groups gave up their annual cost of living adjustment entirely – in total approximately $1 million was deferred by employees to help maintain our services.

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.

Please join me in supporting Measure R to maintain our City as a great place to live work and play.

Janet Abelson,

Mayor

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