Local votes of confidence: Most bonds, parcel taxes pass

Proposition 30, raising statewide taxes to support education, was a nail biter, struggling to get a majority of voters behind it. But that wasn’t the case for most K-12 parcel taxes and school construction bonds on the ballot Tuesday. Voters passed 14 of 22 parcel taxes by margins of victory ranging from 67.1 percent – just above the requisite two-thirds majority – to an impressive 77.3 percent, in the Berryessa School District in San Jose (see chart below).

Even in five of the eight districts where they lost, parcel taxes drew at least 55 percent support. Superintendents and school board members in those districts at least can take solace in knowing that help may be on the way in Sacramento.

Now that Democrats in the Assembly and Senate are on the verge of gaining a supermajority, they may soon be in a position to put before voters a constitutional amendment lowering the threshold for parcel taxes to 55 percent, just as it is for school construction bonds.

For a decade, state Sen. Joe Simitian, a Palo Alto Democrat, tried, to no avail, to persuade the Legislature to put the question on the ballot. But he couldn’t persuade any Republican colleagues in the Senate to vote for it, so it died shy of the two-thirds needed for approval. Assemblymember Mike Feuer, a Los Angeles Democrat who authored a similar bill last year in the Assembly, didn’t fare any better.

Simitian and Feuer are termed out as of January, so another legislator will have to pick up the cause, this time without having to ask for Republican support. Had the 55 percent been in effect this week, 86 percent of the parcel taxes would have passed.

The 106 school construction bonds and 25 parcel taxes comprised the majority of local revenue measures on this week's ballot. Courtesy of Michael Coleman, local revenue expert and creator of CaliforniaCityFinance.com. (click to enlarge)

The 106 school construction bonds and 25 parcel taxes comprised the majority of local revenue measures on this week’s ballot. Courtesy of Michael Coleman, local revenue expert and creator of CaliforniaCityFinance.com. (Click to enlarge)

The parcel taxes included a modest $39 per property for five years in Alameda Unified and $196 for eight years in Mill Valley – on top of $731 voters already are paying. Davis Unified had an enticement written into the measure to vote for Gov. Brown’s Prop. 30. Because it passed, property owners won’t have to pay the $204 additional parcel tax they approved on Tuesday.

Parcel taxes are one of the few taxes that school districts can levy. Because of Proposition 13, they cannot be based on the value of a house or property. Cottages and starter mansions must be charged a uniform amount, although some districts are experimenting with parcel taxes based on square footage, and some, like Centinela Union High School District and four feeder districts in Los Angeles County, are charging commercial and residential properties different rates. A dozen of the 22 parcel taxes were renewals or extensions of existing parcel taxes. New parcel taxes had a harder time; six of the 10 failed.

Three community college districts also put parcel taxes on the ballot; only Measure A, the $79 per parcel tax in the financially troubled San Francisco Community College District, passed. Proposals in the Chabot-Las Positas and Contra Costa Community College Districts came just shy of 66.7 percent.

Over the past 20 years, 55 percent of parcel taxes – 322 of 584 – have passed, according to Mike McMahon, a school board member from Alameda Unified, who has tracked the results. Only about 10 percent of the state’s nearly 1,000 school districts, mostly in the Bay Area, have passed parcel taxes.

Also on Tuesday, a record 106 school construction measures, requesting $14.5 billion in bonds, were on the ballot. They needed only a 55 percent majority vote to pass, and 85 were approved – 80 percent, on par with the historic average. Among the largest to pass: $475 million in Oakland Unified and $346 million in Sacramento City Unified. Among the largest to fail: $497 in Mira Costa Community College District and $449 million in San Dieguito Union High School District. The bond receiving the most support was $90 million in Inglewood Unified, with 86 percent support ­– a vote of confidence for a besieged district taken over by the state this year after declaring insolvency.

Results of parcel taxes from Nov. 6, 2012 election (updated Nov. 8)
County District/Measure Amount Passed (2/3 needed) % Yes vote
Alameda San Leandro Unified/L $39/yr for 5 yr (new) No 65.6%
Contra Costa Martinez Unified/C $50/yr for 5 yr (extension) Yes 67.7%
Contra Costa West Contra Costa Unified/G 7.2 cents sq. ft for 5 yr (extension) Yes 74.7%
Humboldt Arcata Elementary/E $49/yr for 5 yr (new) Yes 77.3%
Kern Mojave Unified/N $42/yr for 5 yr (new) No 50.4%
Los Angeles Local Classrooms Funding Authority CL (4 elementary districts + Centinela Union High) 2 cents/sq. ft (residential); 7.5 cents/sq. ft (other property) for 12 yr (new) Yes 69.5%
Los Angeles Little Lake City Unified/TT $48/yr for 5 yr(new) Yes 74.1%
Los Angeles Westside Union School District/WP $96/yr for 4 yr (new) No 53.6%
Marin Mill Valley Schools/B $196 yr/8 yr (in addition to a $731 tax through 2018 that increases 5% a yr) Yes 70.4%
Marin/Sonoma Shoreline Unified/C $184.70/yr for 8 yr (extension) Yes 71.5% (Marin: 76.8%;Sonoma: 63.2%)
Monterey Pacific Grove Unified/A $65/yr for 5 yr (extension) No 65.1%
Nevada Pleasant Ridge Union/K $92/yr (new) No 36.7%
San Mateo San Bruno Park School District/G $199/yr for 5 yr (new) No 58.5%
Santa Barbara Santa Barbara Unified (high school)/A $48/yr for 4 yr(continuation) Yes 68.6%
Santa Barbara Santa Barbara Unified (elementary)/B $45/yr for 4 yr (continuation) Yes 69.6%
Santa Clara Berryessa Union Schools/K $79/yr for 8 yr (continuation) Yes 77.3%
Sonoma Fort Ross Elementary/L $48/yr for 8 yr (renewal) No 65.4%
Sonoma Sebastopol Union/O $76/yr for 8 yr (renewal) Yes 71.4%
Sonoma West Sonoma County Union/K $48/yr for 8 yr (renewal) Yes 72.3%
Tulare Three Rivers School District/I $60/yr (new) No 61.6%
Ventura Ventura Unified/Q $59/yr for 4 yr (new; voters rejected $96/yr in 2010) Yes 67.1%
Yolo Davis Joint Unified/E $204/yr for 4 yr (renewal plus $242 more; contingent on Prop 30 failing) Yes 68.9%


Filed under: School Finance, State Education Policy

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5 Responses to “Local votes of confidence: Most bonds, parcel taxes pass”

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  1. Richard Harris on Nov 9, 2012 at 3:48 pm11/9/2012 3:48 pm

    • 000

    I am the Davis Jt. Unified Trustee who wrote our measure E parcel tax and ran the campaign that led to its passage. As a lobbyist in Sacramento as my “day job” I saw first hand the state’s Budget mess. I didn’t want Davis kids’ education subject to the whims of voters across the state who needed to approve Prop. 30 to stave off huge cuts to our programs. So let me offer this clarification of your report. Measure E had two components. It renewed our existing tax of $204 a year that runs out this fiscal year. It also gave the Board authority to raise an additionalparcel tax up to $242 a year to cover the anticipated loss from the failure of Proposition 30. Since 30 passed, property owners will be spared the additional tax but we will continue to pay the existing $204. So voters essentially approved a portential $446 tax, a staggering display of local support for our schools, unmatched anywhere in the state.

  2. Chris Reed on Nov 9, 2012 at 9:33 am11/9/2012 9:33 am

    • 000

    It is my hope that at some point the California media cover the fact that “construction” bonds are in fact being used to pay for laptops, iPads and routine maintenance in district after district so as to free up funds in the operating budget for employee compensation.

    In San Diego Unified, a 2008 “construction” bond was used to buy nearly 100,000 laptops and iPads, and to pay for painting and graffiti removal, etc.

    It is insanely irresponsible that the district should take out the equivalent of a 30-year mortgage to pay for this.


    • navigio on Nov 9, 2012 at 11:51 am11/9/2012 11:51 am

      • 000

      The ballot text did mention technology, and the web page they put up describing what would be done said,

      “Will Proposition “S” bring technology into the schools?
      Proposition “S” will wire classrooms for interactive learning and school campuses for WiFi. It will enable students to access lessons online. It will also help teachers and students interact directly. Proposition “S” will bring technology upgrades to every school in every neighborhood.”

      It does not mention computers per se, and in fact there seems to be text in state law that prohibits ‘furnishing facilities’. Has this been challenged? Seems like it would be an important precedent either way at this point in time..

      Regardless, its difficult to understand how a district could just come up with the money to provide computers. It is ironic that the computers will last so little time compared to the debt.

  3. Mike McMahon on Nov 9, 2012 at 7:05 am11/9/2012 7:05 am

    • 000

    While in 2010, only 47% (17/39) of school district parcel tax elections were successful, 2011 saw 67% (18/27) success rate and 2012 with a 66% (27/41) passage rate. Historically, since 1983 the overall success rate for passage of school district parcel taxes is 55% (322/584).

  4. Mike McMahon on Nov 9, 2012 at 6:59 am11/9/2012 6:59 am

    • 000

    San Diego passed a bond measure for $2.8B. Yes that is B for billion.

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