Quarter-cent sales tax would take care of local parks, save farmland
By Al Boro
On Aug. 7, after a series of public meetings, a public opinion survey, a recommendation from the County Parks and Open Space Commission and at the urging of community groups and residents, the Marin County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to place a quarter-cent sales tax measure on the Nov. 6 ballot.
If approved by two-thirds of voters, the proceeds will be used according to an Expenditure Plan developed by the public and the Parks and Open Space Commission as follows (the tax would yield about $10 million a year and expire after nine years):
- $5.2 million – Take care of county parks, open space preserves, and facilities (including trails): protect, maintain, and restore natural resources, improve visitor services, improve public safety, and reduce wildfire risk.
- $1.3 million – Preserve currently unprotected open space, community separators, wildlife corridors, greenbelts and habitats identified in Marin County Park’s Strategic Plan.
- $1.5 million – City, town, and special district parks and recreation — Grants to support recreation lands, facilities, programs and vegetation management to reduce wildland fire risk.
- $2.0 million – Farmland — Preserve family farms and ranches through the acquisition of permanent conservation easements, to be matched at least 1:1 by non-county funds.
Marin County’s parks, open space and farmland are cherished community resources and part of the fabric of everyday life providing many benefits to residents and businesses alike. The economic benefits provided to communities by their parks and farms are well documented.
People come to Marin to play in the parks, enjoy local food and visit farms. The Marin County Visitors Bureau estimates that 85 percent percent of visitors come to enjoy Marin’s parks and open spaces. Increased sales taxes by tourists who visit primarily because of parks and farms provide direct income to the county. In 2010, visitors spent $640.5 million, and generated more than 6100 jobs for the county. Visitor direct tax receipts added up to $42 million. Since Marin attracts a large number of tourists and visitors who spend money here, a portion of sales taxes collected in Marin are paid by them, reducing the proportion paid by Marin residents.
Parks and open space attract businesses and trained employees in search of a high quality of life. A 1997 study found that owners of small companies rank recreation/parks/open space as the highest priority in choosing a new location. Industry in the county includes farming and ranching, movie and video production, computer software, communications equipment, printing, and the manufacture of ceramics, candles, and cheese. With nearly 300 farms, agriculture is a growing $70 million industry in the county. For every one job on the farm, four are created in the community. The largest sector of Marin agriculture is the dairy industry. Compared to the impact of other notable industries, dairies offer more economic stimulus and jobs to the state yearly than either the iconic motion picture/television or wine industries.
Numerous studies have found that land conservation is frequently less expensive for local governments than suburban style development. Farms and other types of open land actually subsidize local government by generating more in property taxes than they consume in services.
Maintaining and protecting our parks, open space and farmland enjoys broad support in Marin County. Diverse community groups representing the environment, parks and open space, biking, agriculture and many others asked the Marin County Board of Supervisors to place this modest sales tax measure on the Nov. ballot to provide critically needed funds to maintain and protect our parks, farms and open space. The measure will cost less than $3 a month per resident. Public opinion surveys in 2011 and 2012 found that 95 percent percent of voters surveyed believe Marin County parks are a valuable public resource and must be maintained for present and future generations to use and enjoy. Ninety-one percent believe it is essential to preserve our farmland.
For other Bay Area counties it is too late to preserve much of their open lands. In Marin we have an opportunity to continue the extraordinary legacy we have inherited. Having spent 20 years as Mayor of San Rafael as well as a member of other community boards I have had the opportunity to consider a number of bonds, parcel taxes and tax measures. I strongly support Marin County Measure A, the Parks, Open Space and Farmland Protection Measure. Please join me in voting Yes on Measure A.
For more information, go to www.yesmarinparksopenspace.com.
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