I’ll Be Opposing BART Tax Hike

Ballot measures are going to be crowded in 2012. Seems everyone from the Legislature in Sacramento on down to our local school district board wants to ask taxpayers to pay more, except for BART.

Although BART directors also considered asking voters in three counties for more money next year, they’ve apparently decided to wait until 2013 to ask voters to approve a parcel tax to replace aging train cars. The measure would require two-thirds approval. (Board members, Joel Keller and Gail Murray said they favor an even later date such as 2014.)

BART says their decision was based on a poll in which 65% of those surveyed in the spring generally supported the ballot measure for a parcel tax of $45 per home per year. Wonder who BART surveyed? Was it those who ride BART daily or just a phone poll survey like the numerous ones I’m receiving these days? I don’t know as the poll results were presented to the Board not in a general meeting at Board headquarters, but at a retreat on Nov. 12.

According to my query to BART’s new communications chief, the retreat was held at the Renaissance ClubSport Hotel in Walnut Creek. I guess we should all be grateful the retreat wasn’t held in New Orleans where 4 BART Directors and 9 BART employees recently attended the annual APTA conference.

Frankly I object to any public agency retreating and holding meetings behind closed doors. BART directors receive a monthly stipend of $1,386.19 per month for 2011, minus a deduction of $100 if a director misses a meeting for a committee of which the director is a member.

Directors are eligible for the same benefits as most employees e.g. medical, dental and vision coverage for director, spouse/domestic partner and eligible dependents (director share of monthly premium is currently $86.95, the same as most employees.) Eligibility of former directors for health benefits upon leaving service is dependent on when directors first served and length of service.

Directors who served before 1/1/95 and serve a minimum of 12 years are eligible for benefits on the same terms as district employees/retirees. Others may participate in health plans on a fully self paid basis as long as they serve at least ONE full term.

BART also makes contributions equal to approximately 8.3% of the directors’ compensation into the Money Purchase Pension Plan in lieu of Social Security, have a $10,000 life insurance policy while active and upon leaving service if served for 12 years and receive a BART Transportation Pass, which is good not only for the director but his eligible spouse/domestic partner and eligible dependents while actively serving and upon LEAVING service. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me.

I won’t be approving any BART tax measure – whether it’s in 2012, 2013 or 2014. If BART is seeking more revenues they should just raise fares now.

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