Prospect of a new Burlingame sales tax

On Nov. 7, Burlingame voters will have a critical choice to make: whether or not to accept a proposed sales tax increase. Measure I consists of a quarter-cent per dollar sales tax increase. The tax does not impact purchases of medicine and groceries.

An independent evaluation predicted yearly revenue increases of $2 million, which can not be taken by the state. The money earned will go toward supporting city services such as accelerating street and sidewalk repair, crime prevention and a possible renovation of the Burlingame Recreation Center.

“If BHS students were out shopping for something at Pottery Barn or clothing on the Avenue or for a new skateboard, they would pay one-quarter of 1 percent,” said Burlingame council member Donna Colson. “So for $4 of something they bought, they would pay an additional penny.”

In order to be passed, Measure I will require a greater than 50 percent approval among voters. If passed, it will go into effect in 2018. Although this measure is appealing to many, there are others, such as sophomore Casey Johnstone, who see possible downsides to the extra sales tax.

“I only get paid $12 an hour and I already have to pay a lot of taxes,” Johnstone said. “The little things add up.”

Other concerns for the measure are its lack of an expiration date and the possibility that it will drive individuals away from local Burlingame stores, towards online shopping such as Amazon. Colson had a different view on this concern.

“Businesses have told us that they do not think this will cause harm to their businesses,” Colson said. “People will continue to shop in Burlingame even if we pass this.”

If Measure I does lead to the construction of a new Burlingame recreation renter, it would have more parking, be accessible for handicap individuals and become earthquake safe. The additional money could also go towards funding additional programs at the Rec Center.

The sides of the issue are not black and white either. There are others, such as sophomore Trevor Macko, who like the general idea of the tax, but have criticisms too.

“It’s a really small amount of money and it goes to good things,” Macko said.

His one hesitation when it comes to the measure is where the money is going. He explained that he hopes that the local schools would be a priority in the allocation of the money earned. As mentioned earlier in this article, an important element about this tax increase is that it would go directly to the city. The Burlingame City Council would then decide what to do with it under the supervision of a tax oversight committee.

Despite the fact that the measure states the most likely destinations of the extra money, it is not yet set in stone. If Measure I is approved, a tax oversight committee consisting of Burlingame citizens will be selected to aid the council in where the money will go. It would be required to meet at least once a year to monitor the expenditures of City Council. This meeting would be independent of the City Council.

Posted on October 26, 2017 .