Higher tax or better parks? 

A measure that would give Peninsula parks a facelift but make San Mateo County’s sales tax among the highest in the Bay Area will be put to the test in Tuesday’s election.

Measure O, aka Parks for the Future, is a one-eighth-cent sales tax that promises to secure more than $16 million per year to fund county and city parks, the Ladera and Highland Recreation districts and the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District.

The measure, which needs two-thirds approval, would raise the county’s sales tax from 8.25 percent to 8.375 percent, making it one of the highest in the Bay Area, second only to Alameda and San Francisco.

While Measure O is enjoying endorsements from elected officials, environmental organizations, youth sports leagues and virtually every city, it has garnered some criticism as well.

Sequoia Healthcare District board member Jack Hickey said voters should not bear the burden of the county’s mismanagement of its land and budget. He suggested the additional funds be garnered through park user fees or by leasing out part of the land to golf course developers.

Other critics have suggested that a sales tax during tough economic times disproportionately hurts the poor.

But Bott said the benefit of the measure would far outweigh the cost, estimated to be about $2 a month for the average person.

"Being able to go to a local park that’s well maintained, that has clean and safe bathrooms and with recreational programs intact is a benefit to everyone, especially those with fewer resources," she said.

tbarak@sfexaminer.com

Measure O

The initiative needs two-thirds approval to pass.

$0.00125: Amount of sales tax hike

$2 a month: Average cost to resident

75,000: Acres of open space affected

$16 million per year: Funds generated for parks

Source: San Mateo County Parks and Recreation Foundation

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