Utility Modernization Act Headed for Ballot

 

The City Council approved placing the Utility Modernization Act on the November ballot. The measure passed 4-1. Mayor Trish Spencer cast the lone dissenting vote.

The act has two main proponents. The first modernizes language to update the existing Utility Users Tax. The second confirms the annual transfer of funds from Alameda Municipal Power (AMP) to the city. 

This provision protects core city services without raising tax rates, according to the city’s press release. 

Updating the tax clarifies what services can be taxed under the act. Since 1970, Alameda residents have paid this tax on their AMP bills.
Voters approved the act  in 1998. The current tax rate is 7.5 percent. The money collected accounts for 10 percent of the General Fund, according to the City Council memorandum. 

If voters approve the act, the memorandum states that there will be no increased tax rate. However, more services, including those that involve technology, could see the  tax  applied to them. 

Part of the act’s new language includes a modern, functional definition of telecommunication and video services that is technology-neutral. This includes voice overInternet protocol (VoIP) telephone service, Broadband cable-like services (IP-TV), paging, and private communication services.

The second part of act reaffirms AMP’s obligation to provide money to the General Fund. Currently, AMP transfers $2.8 million a year to the city. This is standard operating practice for municipal utility companies. This also funds approximately $900,000 for the electricity and maintenance of  the city’s street lights, according to a  memo from City Mangaer Jill Keimach and City Attorney Janet Kern.

The act affirms this transfer and authorizes the possibility to adjust in the future to account for inflation. AMP has been providing to the city’s General Fund since 1914.

The monies collected from UUT and the transfer of funds from AMP are applied to city services including public safety, fire and emergency response, recreation and parks, street and sidewalk maintenance, libraries and streetlights.  

The city assures its residents that the new measure is to protect services already in place, not expanding them. “This measure will continue to provide essential city services that allow Alameda residents to live in a vibrant, well maintained community,” said Keimach.

The measure will be up for vote in the November election on Tuesday, Nov. 8. For more information about UMA, visit alamedaca.gov or call the city manager’s office at 747-4700 or email manager@alamedaca.gov