A ballot measure from November 2020 has quietly raised the sales tax in several Bay Area counties to fund the state’s rail service.
Last year, voters passed Measure RR, the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board District’s rail service tax, which authorized an additional sales tax of 0.125 percent, or one-eighth of a percent, in San Francisco, Santa Clara and San Mateo counties for the next 30 years. The increase will generate an estimated $100 million per year for Caltrain service.
The measure, which passed with 69 percent approval in November and took effect on July 1, raises San Mateo County’s tax rate from 9.25 percent to 9.375 percent. With the increase, Half Moon Bay is now one of 20 cities in San Mateo County with a 9.375 percent sales tax, the county’s average rate, according to the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration. That figure is a combination of California’s 7.25 percent and the county’s 2.125 percent sales tax. Unlike other cities in the county, Half Moon Bay does not currently charge its own sales tax.
As of July 1, San Mateo County has the third-highest sales tax in the state, trailing only Alameda (10.25 percent) and Los Angeles (9.5 percent) counties. Out of the 31 cities and towns in the county, Pacifica has the lowest tax rate at 9.250 percent. Several cities, including Daly City, Belmont, Redwood City and San Bruno charge the highest 9.875 percent.
Krystlyn Giedt, the CEO of the Coastside Chamber of Commerce and Visitors’ Bureau, said she hasn’t heard much concern from local businesses about the increase because it’s relatively small and the charge is passed on to the customer.
“It’s not a huge amount and it’s increased by more in the past,” Giedt said. “I haven’t heard from businesses about it.”
The Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board, which is composed of representatives from San Francisco, San Mateo County Transit District and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, owns and operates the Caltrain rail corridor from San Francisco to Gilroy. Most of Caltrain’s funding comes from passenger fares, and this measure establishes an alternative revenue stream and helps cover operational costs. The additional funds are meant to increase the speed and frequency of trains while reducing congestion, air pollution and travel costs. Among other expansions, Caltrain will bolster its peak hour service from six to eight trains an hour each direction.