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A Charter City adopts a Charter, which is a document that outlines how a city is governed. Becoming a charter city allows voters to determine how their city government is organized and, with respect to municipal affairs, enact legislation different than that adopted by the state.
The power of home rule, granted by the California Constitution, makes available to charter cities a variety of tools to use to construct local policy and address local concerns. The voters of each charter city get to decide which tools to put in their tool box. With this Charter, El Cerrito will reclaim more local autonomy and expand the economic and fiscal independence of our City government to promote the health, safety, and welfare of all its residents. Therefore, we do hereby exercise the express right granted by the Constitution of the State of California to enact and adopt this Charter for the City of El Cerrito.
To become a charter city, a city must adopt a charter. There are two ways to adopt a charter:
In either case, the charter is not adopted by the city until it is ratified by a majority vote of the city's voters.23
League of California Cities. http://www.cacities.org/Resources-Documents/Resources-Section/Charter-Cities/Charter-Cities-A-Quick-Summary-for-the-Press-and-R.
21Cal. Gov’t Code § 34451.
22Cal. Gov’t Code § 34458.
23Cal. Gov’t Code §§ 34457, 34462.
On May 1, 2018, the Charter Committee recommended the draft Charter to the City Council. The City Council will hold public hearings on the Charter at the June 18 and June 19 Council meetings, and would then consider putting the Charter on the ballot in July for the voters to consider in November 2018.p>
A RPTT is a tax that is only paid upon the sale of property, and is traditionally split between the buyer and seller. Charter cities may adopt—with voter approval—a Real Property Transfer Tax at any rate.
The revenue could be used for: maintaining rapid 9-1-1 emergency response times; City parks, paths, and playfields; library programs for children, adults, and families; senior services; affordable housing; and long-term financial stability for the City and services.
No. Measure V asks voters to approve a Real Property Transfer Tax (RPTT). The RPTT is a one-time tax paid when property is sold or otherwise transferred in return for a payment to the owner. It’s not an ongoing, annual tax. If you own a home and don’t sell it, you won’t pay the tax. If you sell your home, Measure V allows you and the buyer to decide who should pay the tax. Measure V also rebates a portion of the tax to the seller or the buyer for making seismic upgrades or improvements that save water and electricity.
No. Measure V plainly states that the tax is calculated based on the amount paid as part of a sale or other transfer. If your home is transferred without any payment by the person or trust receiving it, there is no tax to pay. Measure V expressly exempts several transfers from the tax.
Like most of the City’s revenues, funds from Measure V are general in nature and can be used for all the services the City provides. Each year, during the public budget process, the City Council adopts a budget based on the priorities of the community, which regularly change. As part of the City’s general funds, Measure V revenues can be allocated based on changing needs and priorities for police, fire, recreation, economic development, infrastructure and many other services desired by our residents.
Yes. The City’s budget is balanced. Additional funds will now be available for increased disaster preparedness, police and fire prevention, parks, facilities and open space and recreation programs in amounts determined annually and publicly by the City Council to reflect community priorities and needs.
For better or worse, home values have gone up dramatically in El Cerrito and in neighboring cities such as Berkeley and Albany—both of which are also charter cities that have a real property transfer tax. The real estate agent who served on the Charter Committee said during public meetings that the tax had not hurt the market in either of those cities. There’s no evidence that a RPTT has hurt the real estate market in the area. For a median priced home in El Cerrito in 2018, the tax would only equal about 1% of the sale price. Long time El Cerrito homeowners currently and historically have enjoyed the steadily increasing equity of what they initially paid for the homes.
Measure V allows buyers and sellers of property to decide who will pay the tax. Traditionally, it is split between the buyer and the seller. As an incentive to make seismic upgrades and energy and water-saving improvements to property, it includes several potential rebates of the tax for either the seller or purchaser. Sellers or purchasers who pay the tax will be able to recover a portion of it for making specified improvements to property that reduce the risk of damage and injury in earthquakes, save water, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
There is no documented causal connection between charter city status and bankruptcy. There are very few instances of California cities filing for bankruptcy. Both charter cities and general law cities have used bankruptcy proceedings. The proposed El Cerrito Charter authorizes the City to use additional tools to raise revenue for important services but makes no changes to existing local law that would alter how the City spends its funds. The City is audited annually by an independent auditor and has a Financial Advisory Board of residents that looks at the City’s budget, audits, and financial policies. Additional revenues can help to build a reserve fund and long-term financial stability we need.
The Real Property Transfer Tax is a one-time tax paid when property is sold. It does not create a new annual expense for landlords. There is no documented connection between the Real Property Transfer Tax and the level of rents.
Yes. If the Real Property Transfer Tax had been in place in 2017, sales of commercial properties on San Pablo Avenue would have resulted in an additional $500,000 in revenue for the City. Those funds could have been used for disaster preparedness, police staffing, parks, senior services, and other important local services.
The City has been open—from the very first City Council meeting about the issue in November 2017—that the Real Property Transfer Tax would meaningfully increase revenue to support the community’s priorities for local services like disaster preparedness, police, fire, parks and open space, and senior services. Under current California law, only charter cities can collect a Real Property Transfer Tax.
In 2014, voters in the City of Emeryville similarly approved a limited charter that expanded their ability to raise revenue, including a RPTT. The proposed El Cerrito Charter leaves in place local law, other than to give the City more options for raising revenue and authorizing a RPTT. The City has explained this at every public meeting at which the proposed El Cerrito Charter and Measure V have been discussed. El Cerrito voters will decide whether they want additional revenue to meet their priorities for local services.