Berkeley voters might be forgiven for turning apoplectic when they peruse their sample ballots and read a section on Measure H, a parcel tax measure to raise $5 million to maintain schools.
The impartial analysis of the measure, prepared by the Alameda County Counsel’s office, reports that Measure H will tax homeowners $6.31 a square foot for the measure. Commercial property owners would pay $9.46 per square foot.
That would mean that a family owning a 1,000 square foot, two-bedroom home would pay $6,300 a year for just that measure.
The only problem is that the numbers are off by a factor of 100.
The true cost of the parcel tax is 6.31 cents a square foot for residential properties and 9.46 cents for commercial properties. The family owning that 1,000 square foot home would pay just $63 – not $6,300 — a year for Measure H.
The mistake was discovered after the sample ballot was mailed to Berkeley voters, according to Dave Macdonald, the Alameda County Registrar of Voters. So, on Sept. 27, his office mailed a special letter pointing out the error to Berkeley households.
“It was too late to recall the sample ballot,” said MacDonald. “The only way to correct it is to send out a mailing. It gets their attention because we don’t send out too many letters like this.”
The sample ballot contains the text of the parcel tax measure as it will appear on the ballot, an argument for and against the measure, and the county counsel’s impartial analysis. All the other parts of the sample ballot were correct. It was only the county counsel’s statement that had a mistake.
“It was an easy mistake to make,” said MacDonald. “It would have been nice if we had caught it, or the county counsel had caught it, or the school district had caught it, but no one did,” he said. “Of course after the fact it jumps right out at you.”
The registrar’s office just reprinted what it had been sent by the county counsel’s office, said MacDonald.
These kind of mistakes happen regularly, but the last time it happened in Alameda County was a few years ago, he said.
Each year, the registrar’s office has to make up a separate sample ballot in three separate languages for each city in Alameda County.
“Unfortunately, when you are dealing with thousands and thousands of pages, it is easy to make an error,” he said.
There were no errors on Measure I, which would authorize BUSD to borrow $211 million to renovate various schools.