In response to “Measure A’s Passage Would Bump the County’s Sales Tax Up One-Half Cent,” I would like to express that being an opponent of Measure A does not mean one would like to see cuts to social services. In fact, for me, this could not be farther from the truth.
As a 2011 report from the County Manager cites, if a new jail is completed, “the magnitude of cuts necessary to re-balance the General Fund budget…would be $118 million, or 26% of Net County Cost.” Since the San Mateo County budget website already says that the County faces “a budget deficit that threatens many vital services,” it is clear that San Mateo County does not have the money to build this costly jail.
Fortunately, there are more effective alternatives that are also more affordable. The same report from the County Manager outlines alternatives recommended by the County’s Health System, including expanding short term residential treatment for mental illness or drug detox, expanding the number of people served through alternative sentencing, expanding the Pathways program, etc. These recommendations would take 3-6 months to get running, serve 2,100 residents, and cost $8.38 million a year. On the other hand, the new jail would not open until 2015 and would cost $160 million to build. Unfortunately, the County has chosen to build the jail anyway.
Thus, it may seem as if an extra $60 million annually is necessary to fill the gap in social services. Yet, how much of these revenues would be leftover after taking care of the jail costs? It is important to keep in mind that the initial jail costs that have already passed the Board of Supervisors are $44.2 million and, after the $160 million, the County will face $30 million annually to maintain the jail. This does not leave much of the potential $60 million for parks, emergency dispatch centers, preschool programs, etc.
Supporters of Measure A may say that our County needs the money for social services. However, how do we ensure that the money that would be coming from our pockets would truly go to those services and not this new, unnecessary jail? The passage of Measure A could in fact lead to a slippery slope of more cuts to social services and future tax proposals.
— Bernadette Rabuy, South San Francisco resident