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Measure N

In Measure N, Hercules voters asked to keep 8% utility tax on books indefinitely

on November 4, 2022

On Tuesday, Hercules voters will decide whether to extend Measure N, a utilities tax that has been funding essential city services for the past 18 years.

The 8% tax creates revenue of roughly $3.6 million per year and assures financial stability. This allows for more funding of neighborhood police patrols, water quality, community services, parks and recreation, and for attracting local businesses, as the official website for the measure states. 

The City Council unanimously voted to put the measure on the ballot. Vice Mayor Alexander Walker-Griffin says residents would feel an immediate impact should Measure N not pass.

“It’s like your employer taking $2,000 off your salary. It would be pretty drastic,” he said.

Walker-Griffin noted Measure N does not increase taxes or utility rates for Hercules residents. In the past, the top three departments to receive most of the money were police, public works and parks and recreation.

In an editorial on Monday, The San Jose Mercury News urged voters not to pass the measure because unlike when it was on the ballot in the past, the tax would not have an expiration date. 

Measure N states that the tax would continue “until ended by voters.”

The Mercury News editorial board, which supported the tax when it was increased from 6% to 8% in 2013 and when it was extended from 2015 to 2025, cautioned voters about the council’s decision to remove a sunset date from the measure. “Local government leaders should not be afraid to periodically explain to voters why they need additional taxes and demonstrate that the money is being wisely spent,” it said.

In information promoting the measure, the city noted that Measure N funds are subject to annual audits and reports to the community.

In January, the city asked PM3 Research and The Lew Edwards Group to conduct a community survey that would serve as a guideline for how future Measure N revenue would be used. The survey evaluated residents’ needs, desires and priorities for the first time since 2015. 

From 324 responses, the survey found that for 88%, the top priority was for the city to be financially stable. That was closely followed by the wish to prevent funds from being taken by the state (87%), meeting water quality health standards and maintaining fiscal accountability (both at 86%), as well as swift 911 response times (85%) and keeping public areas and parks safe and clean (84%). Residents also expressed their wishes for more restaurants and stores as well as free Wi-Fi.

For city manager Dante Hall, Measure N is a key element in the city’s long-term financial sustainability. He said it’s vital to infrastructure maintenance and improvements, which can be financed through the tax.

“Our roads and neighborhood road systems need yearly maintenance, and we don’t want to get behind. In recent years, we haven’t had the luxury to make improvements on our facilities and parks, but we are on track now to make these improvements,” he said

The money helped Hercules turn a corner when it was enacted nearly two decades ago, and Walker-Griffin hopes voters will let the city continue down that path . 

“In the end, it’s simple,” he said. “You can’t have more things if you don’t have the money for them.”  

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Richmond Confidential is an online news service produced by the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism for, and about, the people of Richmond, California. Our goal is to produce professional and engaging journalism that is useful for the citizens of the city.

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