Frequently Asked Questions
What is Measure R?
Voting Yes on R renews the expiring voter-approved sales tax first passed as Measure L in 2012 and increases the rate by ½¢ (50¢ on a $100 purchase) to provide locally-controlled funding for local needs. The priority uses for the funds generated by this measure are to keep Orinda safer by reducing wildfire risk, maintaining safe roads and improving critical infrastructure like aging storm drains that prevent flooding and sinkholes.
How has local voter-approved sales tax funding been used to date?
Just eight years ago, Orinda’s deteriorating roads were rated among the worst in the Bay Area. That’s when Orinda voters approved Measure L - a modest increase in the sales tax rate to fund road repairs and repaving. All scheduled road improvements were completed on budget and ahead of schedule, as documented by the Citizens’ Infrastructure Oversight Commission (CIOC). Orinda roads are now rated as good or better. By extending this funding with Measure R, Orinda will have the resources maintain our roads, protect the investment we have already made and prevent our roads from deteriorating to their prior condition, requiring more costly repairs and repaving in the future.
How would Measure R funds be used going forward?
We are have been dealing with smoke from surrounding California fires which heightens our awareness of the risk of wildfire. This fire season and those in the recent have been the hottest, driest and most destructive on record. Orinda’s natural open spaces and vegetation that we value for their beauty also create fuel for wildfires that could spread rapidly and devastate our community if not managed properly. From a fire risk perspective, Orinda faces similar conditions to those that have lead to devastating wildfires in Santa Rosa, Paradise and other communities. This map illustrates our exposure.
Measure R will fund proactive wildfire prevention work to keep Orinda safe by managing vegetation on all city properties. Measure R will also fund improvements to Orinda’s aging storm drain system that prevents flooding and sinkholes in our community. We’ve seen recent examples of how failing storm drains in Orinda and Moraga can cause traffic and could block critical evacuation routes in a disaster or emergency.
Specifically, how will Measure R help prevent wildfires in Orinda?
Measure R will provide the stable, locally-controlled funding source needed to implement proven wildfire risk reduction strategies utilized in many communities. For example, Measure R will help control hazardous brush and excessive vegetation throughout Orinda that could provide fuel for a wildfire. Environmentally friendly methods like goat grazing will b utilized. Measure R will create fire breaks to give our firefighters the best chance to keep a fire under control and from spreading rapidly. Measure R will help create and maintain defensible space around our neighborhoods and critical facilities like schools and fire stations as well as critical infrastructure like roads and bridges so that they can be protected in a fire. Measure R will also fund improvements to Orinda’s disaster preparedness by enhancing emergency communications, early alerts and evacuation planning to save lives during a major wildfire, earthquake or other disaster.
Will Measure R help homeowners protect their properties from wildfire?
Yes. An existing program operated through the Moraga-Orinda Fire District (MOFD) partners with private property owners to remove and shred excess combustible vegetation on their properties. Measure R funding will help expand this program so that more property owners may participate and will enable new pilot projects to help homeowners “harden” their homes to protect against wildfire.
Doesn’t the Moraga-Orinda Fire District (MOFD) provide fire protection services for Orinda? What is the City’s role?
MOFD is the fire and emergency medical services provider for the Orinda community. If you dial 911 to report a fire or medical emergency, MOFD firefighters and paramedics will respond. MOFD has stepped up its efforts to work with the community on the importance of maintaining fire safe properties. You may remember receiving notices for weed abatement and pamphlets on making your property safe from fire. For more information on their programs, click here.
But,considering our vulnerability, the job is too big and too costly to be handled by one agency. The City of Orinda plays an important role in fire prevention and emergency planning. For example, the City is responsible for controlling flammable vegetation along city roads, parks and around public infrastructure. Over the years Orinda has expanded its parks and outdoor recreation areas, such as Wilder and Orinda Oaks.
The City also partners with MOFD to help private property owners keep their property safe. In addition, the City coordinates and implements emergency response plans in coordination with other governmental agencies like Contra Costa County Office of Emergency Services, the State Office of Emergency Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). These efforts include emergency preparedness, disaster planning, early emergency alerts and maintaining safe evacuation routes. Maybe, you took part in one of the emergency drills this year.
Why is it important to improve Orinda’s aging storm drains?
Storm drains collect and divert excess rainwater to prevent flooding and erosion. Most of Orinda’s storm drains were built as the community developed over the last century. Many are reaching the end of their useful life and require repairs or replacement. Failing storm drains can cause flooding and related property damage. In recent years, failing storm drains caused large sinkholes on Miner Road in Orinda as well as in Moraga and Lafayette that disrupted traffic and were very costly to repair. In a severe storm, failing storm drains could cause flooding or sinkholes that would block the limited evacuation routes from many neighborhoods. Measure R will repair and maintain aging and collapsing storm drains to prevent flooding, sinkholes, and maintain safe evacuation routes.
How much will Measure R generate and how long will it last?
Measure R will generate approximately $2.4 million per year for twenty years. Measure R will cannot be extended without voter approval.
How much will Measure R cost?
Measure R will renew Orinda’s current sales tax and increase the rate by ½¢. This would add 50¢ to a $100 purchase or $5 to a $1,000 purchase. Both residents and visitors who shop in Orinda will pay the tax. Essential purchases like food and prescription medicine are exempt from sales tax, helping to ensure this measure will not be a burden to those on fixed or limited incomes.
How can I be certain that all funds will be spent as promised?
When placing Measure R on the ballot, the Orinda City Council expressed their intent to use the locally controlled funding from this measure to help prevent wildfires, repair Orinda’s aging storm drains and maintain roads. In fact, the Council intends to front-load expenditures on wildfire protection to make quick and tangible progress to protect our safety. The City of Orinda has a long track record of fulfilling these promises with transparency and accountability. Measure R continues strict accountability protections that have been in place since 2012. An independent citizens’ oversight committee, mandatory audits and public reports are required. All funds must stay in Orinda and cannot be taken away by Sacramento.
Can Measure R funds be diverted by County, State or federal government?
No. All funds from Measure R must stay local to fund projects and programs in Orinda only.
What will happen if Measure R does not pass?
Without Measure R, $1.2 million in annual funding from Orinda’s current voter-approved sales tax will expire in 2022. Orinda will not have funding for wildfire prevention, maintenance of our improved roads and repairs to aging storm drains. To the extent that these needs must be funded in response to emergencies, funds must be diverted from other city programs, services and projects.
Does Measure R ensure that visitors to Orinda pay their fair share?
Yes. Measure R is not a property tax and visitors who shop in Orinda will pay the same sales tax as residents and contribute to wildfire safety, road maintenance and infrastructure improvements in Orinda so that homeowners do not shoulder the entire burden.
Does Measure R increase the cost of essential purchases like groceries and medicine?
No. By law, essential purchases like groceries and prescription medicine are exempt from sales tax.
Don’t we already pay a lot in taxes?
Most city revenue comes from property tax and sales tax revenue. While we pay a lot in taxes, very little of this money comes back to Orinda and most goes to the County and the State. For every dollar in property tax we pay, only 7.3¢ comes back to Orinda. Of the 8.75% sales tax we pay currently, only 1.5% comes back to Orinda. That’s the beauty of Measure R. Every penny of funding from this measure comes back to Orinda to benefit our community.
Won’t these funds just go to bloated public employee pensions?
No. Unlike most cities, Orinda does not participate in the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) or similar defined benefit retirement programs for city employees. Orinda employees are offered a defined contribution retirement benefit similar to a private sector 401(k) plan. As a result, Orinda does not face an unfunded pension liability like most cities.
When can I vote for Measure R?
Measure R will be on the ballot in the November 3, 2020 election, which will be conducted entirely by mail. All voters should receive a ballot in the mail the week of October 5. Completed ballots must be postmarked by Election Day to be counted. We encourage all voters to fill out their ballots soon after receiving them and return them early to avoid any risk of your vote not being counted.
Starting the week of October 5, secure ballot drop boxes will be placed throughout Contra Costa County. There will be a drop box located at Orinda City Hall, where ballots will be collected daily and taken back to the registrar to be counted. More information about drop boxes and voting options can be found at www.cocovote.us/registration-and-voting-options/
Who is eligible to vote on Measure R?
All registered voters residing within the City of Orinda are eligible to vote on Measure R.
What vote threshold is required for approval?
To pass, Measure R must receive support from a majority (50%+1) of votes cast on Measure
When is the deadline to register to vote?
The deadline to register to vote in this election is Monday, October 19. To register to vote please visit www.registertovote.ca.gov.
What if I have other questions or need more information?
To speak with a representative of the Safer Orinda campaign, please email info@SaferOrinda.org or call (925) 388-6513.
Can Measure R funds be used to improve private roads?
Utilizing public tax dollars to improve private roads would constitute an illegal gift of public funds and is not allowed under the law. However, wildfire prevention work such as vegetation management and fire fuel reduction will occur along both public and private roads to help keep all Orinda neighborhoods safe.
Why does Orinda receive so little of our tax money?
Orinda incorporated as a City in 1985, after the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978 that restructured how property taxes are levied throughout the State. At the time of Orinda’s incorporation, Contra Costa County granted a small share (about 7%) of local property collections to Orinda. This low percentage has been locked in ever since that time. It is common for cities incorporated prior to the passage of Prop 13 to receive a larger share of local property taxes and thus be able to support more services from regular property tax collections.
How can I track my ballot to make sure it is received and counted?
Tracking your vote-by-mail ballot—when it is mailed, received, and counted—has never been easier. The California Secretary of State is now offering Where’s My Ballot?—a new way for voters to track and receive notiﬁcations on the status of their vote-by-mail ballot. Where’s My Ballot? lets voters know where their ballot is, and its status, every step of the way. Sign-up at WheresMyBallot.sos.ca.gov to receive automatic email, SMS (text), or voice call notiﬁcations about your ballot.