Yesterday, Richmond citizens firmly voted no on Measure M, a ballot measure to raise the documentary transfer tax on real estate sales.
With a total of 20,000 votes cast, more than 14,000 voted against the measure.
Measure M would have raised the tax from 0.7% per thousand dollars to one percent on properties sold for less than $400,000 and one and a half percent on properties sold for an amount equal to or greater than $400,000.
“I didn’t vote for Measure M because I don’t like transfer taxes,” said Richmond resident Christopher Nelson.
Resident Liz Masterson, a nurse, said she voted against Measure M because she didn’t have “enough information.”
Mayor Tom Butt, an outspoken advocate of Measure M, said he hoped the measure would pass because the potential revenue generated by a higher transfer tax—possibly $4 to $6 million annually—would have gone into the general fund to address Richmond’s budget deficit.
But some residents said they opposed the measure because they lacked faith in City Council’s ability to use the revenue to relieve that debt.
“The city’s finance is like a black hole, it’s like a bottomless hole,” said Richmond resident and business owner Jim Weng. “I feel the city’s finances are badly managed,” he said.
In April of this year, Russ Branson, a senior management consultant with the San Francisco firm Public Financial Management, gave a presentation to Richmond City Council on how to balance the five-year budget. Branson suggested raising the documentary transfer tax as a lucrative way to generate revenue for Richmond without cutting back on city services. City Council authored Measure M and included it in the structurally balanced 2016-17 budget.
Without the revenue from Measure M, said Butt, the City Council “will have to find other ways to address the city’s deficit, and continue to provide complete city services.”
When asked how he felt about the measure’s defeat, Butt said, “What can I say? We lost.”