By Steven Tavares

San Leandro High will benefit from
improvements to Burrell Field.

In times of economic uncertainty, San Leandro voters easily approved a bump in the local sales tax to 10 percent, while giving the go-ahead to significantly upgrade its school sports facilities.

Tax and bond measures entailing a super majority of two-thirds support had led to recent defeats at the ballot box, but Measure Z (the sales tax increase) needed only a simple majority and Measure M (the school facilties bond) needed 55 percent to pass. Both easily secured passage Tuesday with nearly 62 percent support. The success of the measures followed a trend across the Bay Area. Voters approved or will likely approve 15 of 16 school facility bonds in the region. A vast majority of tax measures not needing a super majority are also heading to victory.

San Leandro’s city budget like most municipalities has suffered declining revenues and cuts to programs and services. The city had put an enormous amount of faith into Measure Z passing. Significant portions of the preliminary fiscal budget for this year assumed the measure would pass. According to city officials, the increased sales tax revenue will go far in stabilizing its budget situation for the near term. Actual revenues will not be seen until April of next year, according the city.  “I believe with this measure, we have put San Leandro in a position to succeed in the future,” said Mayor Tony Santos. He says the successful ballot measure will ultimately add $1 million to the city’s beleaguered general fund.

With San Leandro’s approved $50 million school sports bond the city will now be able to replace the crumbling Burrell Field adjacent to Interstate 880. The perennial civic eyesore is the bond’s prime benefactor. Once built, San Leandro will have two gleaming structures on either side of the freeway along with the new Kaiser Permanente complex slated to open in 2013. Public schools across the city will also receive funding to improve their outdoor recreation facilities.

Voters in the area and statewide also approved ballot measures that will also help local communities. The passage of Propositions 22 and 25 should also help struggling cities like San Leandro recover from the poor economy. Prop. 25 allows the Legislature to approve the state’s yearly budget problems with a simple majority rather than the onerous two-thirds. State Sen. Ellen Corbett and Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi along with the mayor and city council have long called for the change in Sacramento.

Prop. 22 will make the biggest impression on San Leandro. The initiative will stop Sacramento from raiding local tax dollars to fund short-term budget fixes. In recent years, lawmakers have transferred over $7 million in takebacks from San Leandro; a portion of which has already been paid back. The initiative should also help local governments plan for some semblance of budget certainty they did not have in the past. Countywide, voters also approved Measure F, which adds a $10 local vehicle licensee fee for improving streets and public transportation.