Monday Morning Thoughts: School Board Should Put Regular Parcel Tax on the Ballot

We need to recognize as a community that we are facing the most serious threat to our quality of life in Davis that we have probably ever faced.  The fact is that we do not have the current level of revenue or resources to fund the things that this community has become known for.

That is true both at the city level as well as the school level.  We have to figure things out or we risk becoming just another community.  At the city level, we lag behind other communities in retail and revenue generation.  And with our affluence, we lag behind other school districts in state funding, and we are facing crumbling infrastructure and a wide teacher compensation gap.

In a way, the answers for our school district are more limited.  The school district has two ways to generate revenue – one is through a facilities bond which will go on the ballot this fall.  The other is through a parcel tax to generate general fund revenue.

There are those who believe we have gone to the parcel tax well too much.  The polling shows that we are right on the bubble of being able to pass another parcel tax.  This a huge driver in why Alan Fernandes has gone the citizens’ initiative route to try to put a majority vote parcel tax on the ballot rather than a standard one.

I think Alan Fernandes should be applauded for attempting to think big and outside of the box.  I will remind a lot of people that he was the one who suggested a much larger parcel tax two years ago – and was shot down by his colleagues.  I think that was a mistake and we needed to go with the $960 parcel tax – if we had, we would not be in this place right now.

While I applaud his efforts, I think the actual proposal has problems.  My biggest concern is adding a School Resource Officer (SRO) on campus.  It is something that the chief of police does not support and the research suggests is a bad idea.  Others are concerned with adding perhaps $1.5 million for firefighters.  Still others are concerned with the fact that the initiative would only cover city residents with a parcel tax, leaving others without having to pay for it.

For these reasons, I think it would be best if Mr. Fernandes pulls his effort and we look into a regular parcel tax that would require a two-thirds vote.

That too has problems.

I have heard from a lot people who are angry about the superintendent and other administrators getting another raise at a time when the district is asking for facilities money and needing more money for teachers.

The reality is, of course, that one thing has nothing to do with another.  The amount of money going to administrative raises has nothing to do with facilities money, as the two are entirely separate by state law.

The general fund money is another matter.  It looks bad.  I question the thinking of the school board.  I have heard from members who supported it and have concluded that I disagree with their reasoning.  The main reason I disagree is that, just as UC looks bad having tuition hikes while giving out administrative raises, the school board looks bad asking for parcel tax money while giving out administrative raises.

Both sides defend themselves in two ways that might as well be gibberish to the voters.  First they argue that retaining quality administrators is difficult and this makes them more competitive.  Second, they argue that the amount of money going to administrators is very small compared to what is needed to either avert a tuition increase or effect a teacher compensation increase.

The fact is they are right on both counts – but the optics are bad.  Symbols matter.  Giving raises to people making $200,000 or more looks horrible when your teachers are forced to have food stamps and Medi-Cal.

I understand the frustration of voters who told me that this will be the first parcel tax that they ever vote no on.  But unfortunately we don’t have that luxury.  Not anymore.

What we are facing in this community is nothing short of an existential threat.  If we want to have great schools, we cannot have them in aging and crumbling buildings that were built in another era, the 1960s.  We can argue about the priorities in the facilities bond – I have problems with some of the first wave of funding as well – but the need is clear and severe.

Just as this community is going to go downhill without money for parks, greenbelts, sidewalks and roads, our schools will no longer be great without an influx of capital.

Second, the teacher compensation gap can become a crisis.  We have a chance to close that gap, to hold onto more of our great young teachers, and reinvest in the future of this community.  But not if we say no to funding.

There is no magic box.  As Alan Fernandes pointed out at the meeting a few weeks ago, we can go the cut route to closing the compensation gap, but our programs are not going to resemble this district as we know it.

One of the reasons the board is reluctant to come forward with a parcel tax is it will be a heavy lift.  There is no doubt about that.  They are afraid that teachers will not do the work to get it passed and, without their support, the community will not back another parcel tax.

I think he’s right on that.  But I think it is time for both the teachers and board to put up or shut up.  There has been a lot of finger pointing and escalating tensions – especially behind the scenes.  I get it.

The stakes are high.  The rhetoric is flying.

This is where we need to pull together.  It’s for the children right?  The teachers are not in this profession to get rich – lord knows.  The school board members are not in this for any reason, for the most part, other than to support the school district.

We have a common mission and we have to work together.

In my thinking, if the teachers do not help to get a parcel tax passed and it falls short, that’s on them.  It is going to be a lot harder for us as community members who love our teachers to back them if they do not help to get the clearest way to pay equity.

Mistakes have been made by all involved.  Now is the time to pull together for the good of this community.  I would like to see Mr. Fernandes pull his majority parcel tax and put a regular one on the ballot – if not for November, then for next spring as a special tax, and then let the chips fall where they may.

—David M. Greenwald reporting


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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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66 thoughts on “Monday Morning Thoughts: School Board Should Put Regular Parcel Tax on the Ballot”

  1. Keith O

    Still others are concerned with the fact that the initiative would only cover city residents with a parcel tax, leaving others without having to pay for it.

    Come on David, you know full well that there’s huge amount of city residents who won’t have to pay this new parcel tax.

    1. Ken A

      Any news about a Davis Seniors, Willowbank and El Macero group in favor of the new parcel tax (that none of them will have to pay but will still help to increase the value of their homes)?

    2. David Greenwald Post author

      Not the point, but ok. Does lead to an interesting question, would this be structured like the city’s per unit parcel tax or like the school district’s per parcel one?

      1. Jim Hoch

        Awesome point David. They could put a superseding parcel tax at the same rate with a by-the-door element. There are few, if any,  multi-family units outside of the city.

  2. Alan Miller

    > Others are concerned with adding perhaps $1.5 million for firefighters.

    #rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr#

    #rat-a-tat-tat-tat-tat-tat#

    #BOOM!#

    #Crash#

    #crinkle#

    #burn#

  3. Alan Miller

    > Still others are concerned with the fact that the initiative would only cover city residents with a parcel tax, leaving others without having to pay for it.

    I love paying for other people to have a free ride.  Because of where they randomly sort-of live. Everyone does.

    1. Jim Hoch

      Alan, given David’s point above everybody who is currently paying could be exempted. this would add “net new” of only multi-family units and since there are not many of these outside city limits there would be few people skating.

      I am also interested in eliminating exemptions in favor of “defer until sold”. Not sure what the path here is, I am still researching.

  4. Ron

    From article:  “What we are facing in this community is nothing short of an existential threat.”

    Suggestion – the Vanguard needs to “ramp up” this issue, a little more.  🙂

    Perhaps a lot more articles like this are needed, as well. Seems like the message isn’t getting through, despite the ongoing effort.

    *yawn*

      1. Ron

        The fact is that as there’s fewer households with school-age children, there’s going to be less interest in paying for other people’s kids.  (Especially if some of those parents are not contributing, via a parcel tax.)

         

        1. David Greenwald

          Not for you apparently.  But for me there’s a problem that teachers in Davis are not getting enough for medical coverage and some are paying huge amounts out of pocket while others are using Medi-Cal or cover California.  Others are using food stamps to get by.  And to me it is a problem that a lot of top young teachers are going elsewhere.  You’re free to disagree of course, but it probably will require more than just the sarcastic (and outdated) “not.”

        2. Cindy Pickett

          According to Zillow, the home that I bought exactly 3 years ago is now worth $100,000 more today. If you own a home in Davis, it shouldn’t matter whether you have kids or not. That kind of ROI won’t be there if the city is not attractive place to live and if the schools are not strong.

        3. Ron

          Cindy:  Home values have been rising throughout California. (However, that is not expected to continue, indefinitely.)

          For areas with good school districts, I’m sure that there’s some relationship regarding desirability to parents who might move to the district (and corresponding increase in value).  However, that argument is not going to continue to fly when actual, ongoing and increasing yearly payments are required to maintain that position (vs. unrealized gain).

          If there wasn’t (also) an exemption for seniors (who supposedly enjoy the increase in unrealized value), this type of proposal would fail outright.  As it is, seniors can impose the tax on others, while still receiving the supposed benefit.

          And again, this doesn’t even account for parents/children who commute to Davis (and don’t pay the parcel tax). As a result, the increase in home values within the district is limited, if a parent is willing to commute to Davis from outside the community.

           

        4. David Greenwald

          “If there wasn’t (also) an exemption for seniors (who supposedly enjoy the increase in unrealized value), this type of proposal would fail outright. ”

          That’s actually not been proven.  It also doesn’t bear out in the polling.

  5. Jeff M

    But for me there’s a problem that teachers in Davis are not getting enough for medical coverage and some are paying huge amounts out of pocket while others are using Medi-Cal or cover California.  Others are using food stamps to get by.  And to me it is a problem that a lot of top young teachers are going elsewhere.  You’re free to disagree of course, but it probably will require more than just the sarcastic (and outdated) “not.”

    Please report the entire compensation package of teachers to back these claims.  I believe them to be hyperbole.

    1. David Greenwald

      People got up and spoke during public comment and told their stories.  I quoted a lot of them in previous articles, you can take a look.

      1. Ron

        David:  You initially reported this as if it were a fact.  It’s probably not difficult to determine if a teacher would qualify for Medi-Cal or food stamps, by looking into the income limits to qualify for these programs.  (Hint – I also share Jeff’s doubt.)

        1. David Greenwald

          I believe it is accurate.  The DTA President also included it in her comments to the board two weeks ago. Other than taking people at their word, I would have to do a substantial amount of legwork to prove it one way or another (I’m not sure I’d either be entitled to the information). I’ll leave it to you to either disbelieve or prove it false.

        2. David Greenwald Post author

          I would suggest looking at this instead.  I believe most of them said they were paying for CC because it was more affordable than the plan offered by the district.

      1. Ron

        If we’re going to compare the costs for employees in general (to determine relative “fairness”), the contributions required from Davis teachers (who select Kaiser healthcare) aren’t much different than the contributions required from federal employees/retirees. (Postal workers have a better arrangement, than other federal employees.)

        https://www.opm.gov/healthcare-insurance/healthcare/plan-information/plan-codes/2018/brochures/73-003.pdf#page=108

        But, most of my points are generally more related to “who” pays, vs. “how much” is paid.

        1. David Greenwald

          The problem with that analysis is that the school district isn’t competing for teachers with the federal government, they are competing for teachers with other school districts.

          The question isn’t one of “fairness” it’s wage / compensation gap.

        2. Ron

          David: Well, try telling that to other workers (who don’t even make as much as teachers), if teachers are exempted from paying the proposed parcel tax.  (That was one proposal I heard about, anyway. Not sure if that’s still the case.)

          Seems like there’s more than one argument being made.  “Fairness”, and “competitiveness”.

          But again, my arguments are mostly centered around “who” should be paying, and not “how much”.

          Hey – if they let in more students from other areas who might not perform as well, maybe they’ll drag down the performance of Davis schools (thereby increasing state funding). 🙂

        3. David Greenwald

          Actually I’m trying to forestall it.  Unless something changes, this is not going to be the community we know within a relatively short period of time.

        4. David Greenwald

          “Well, try telling that to other workers (who don’t even make as much as teachers), if teachers are exempted from paying the proposed parcel tax.  (That was one proposal I heard about, anyway.)”

          That’s a whole $600 a year for a group most of whom don’t live in town and most who don’t make even $40,000 a year, really, that’s an issue for you?

        5. David Greenwald

          And really Ron, how many people who are making less than teachers do you think own a home and so would be paying a parcel tax anyway?

        6. Ron

          I’m sure there’s some homeowners who are retired (and don’t have much income), or purchased their house a long time ago, and/or have a spouse that brings in income.  (Actually, the latter points are probably true for some current teachers, as well.)

          But again, you want to focus on “how much”, when I’d rather focus on “who pays”. And, there’s some fundamental problems regarding that.

        7. David Greenwald

          If they are retired, they qualify for a senior exemption and your objection doesn’t hold.  If they have dual incomes, then your point is irrelevant and your objection doesn’t hold.

        8. Ron

          Regarding retirees, I’ve already pointed out that they can support efforts which force others to pay the tax (who may not even have children), while enjoying the supposed benefits of increased home values. And, that exemption is not even based upon income or need.  Does that seem right, to you?

          Regarding dual incomes, are you suggesting that teachers who have spouses (who bring in other income) shouldn’t be paid as much as those who are on their own?

        9. Ken A

          Cops and Firefighters can retire at 50 and still have to pay the parcel tax until they are 65.  Former Davis Fire Chief Rose Conroy and her husband have been “retired” for almost a decade and will still have to find a way to pay the parcel taxes on their Davis rental homes out of their ~$200K/year in combined pension benefits long after they turn 65 since only a primary residence is exempt from the school parcel taxes…

        10. David Greenwald

          Ron –

          A parcel tax is a *bad* tax.

          It’s a two-thirds majority tax.

          It is a flat tax, so if you own $1 million parcel or $100,000, you pay the same amount.

          You can’t do income based exemptions.

          And it’s the only way to locally raise money to fund school instruction.

          So yeah, it’s unfair.  The whole thing is completely unfair.

        11. Ron

          David (in reference to the possible exemption from a school district parcel tax, for teachers):

          “That’s a whole $600 a year for a group most of whom don’t live in town and most who don’t make even $40,000 a year, really, that’s an issue for you?”

          Well, if that’s true, then why is it an “issue” for teachers?

          Seriously, if they want this to be successful, they should not be pursuing an exemption for themselves.  Really?  (Talk about “optics”.) It deserves to lose, if this is pursued.

          In general, school districts strike me as quite insular, without much consideration of the “outside world”. Even though they’re utterly dependent upon that world.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            Ron:

            To be clear, it’s not something that I have advocated for and I don’t believe is a big enough benefit to introduce. Also, I’m not sure it has been approved by the legislature (I haven’t followed it very closely).

            You say, “if they want this to be successful…” Who they? The current initiative is put out by a board member. It was done without consultation of the teachers. And it’s not clear to me that they will support it. Yes – this whole thing is odd.

        12. Jim Hoch

          David we have a local representative who spends weeks on garage door activism. Maybe he give “Automatic garage door openers: backup batteries.” a rest and tackle school financing options.

        13. Ron

          David:  “Who (is) they”?

          I assume it’s primarily teachers who would have an interest in this, along with parents who want others to help pay for their kids’ education.  🙂

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            But neither of them had anything to do with writing this. That’s part of the point I’m making to you – there is a very odd dynamic here.

        14. Ron

          Got it, but some of the same concerns overlap both of the efforts (the “official/sanctioned” efforts, and the Fernandes effort). In fact, I’m having trouble telling them apart (other than the 2/3 requirement, regarding the official efforts).

        15. Ken A

          I’m wondering if David can tell me where all the $100,000 (or even $200,000) parcels in town are located…

          Parcel taxes are not the “only” way to get money for public schools when I was in public school every school in the district had a big rummage sale every year, we had multiple bake sales, the kids were always going door to door selling books, candy and magazine subscriptions, we had jog-a-thons and skate-a-thons and practically every parent donated at least $20 a year (around $100 in current dollars) to have a 4″x4″ piece of clay art from their kid stuck on a wall or get their kids art painted on a wall…

        16. David Greenwald

          Sure Ken, the Davis Schools Foundation Does a Great Job, but they raise money in the low hundreds of thousands, not the millions.

          I was surprised to learn that one of the individuals suing the city owns a home that is valued at $180K.  Not that this fact is important in my raising the example, but they must be out there.

        17. Ken A

          I’m pretty sure the guy suing the city “owns a home that is valued ON THE TAX ROLLS at $180K” (aka “assessed value”) not actually “valued” or “worth” $180K since I bet it has been about 20 years since a home in Davis sold for $180K or less.

          P.S. I think David knows the difference but “assessed value” of a home in CA after Prop 13 can only go up by 2% a year so after 40 years homes that have never sold often have an “assessed” value if less than 25% of the “market” value…

          P.P.S. The cheapest home for sale in Davis on Realtor.com is going for $385K (and it needs a lot of work)…

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            But what we were talking about is the actual taxation, no? That taxation would be based on assessed value, no? I understand your point, but you have to follow the conversation a little here.

  6. Sharla C.

    Why funding for an SRO and firefighters?  Why not fund an additional counselor or an emergency fund for medical expenses for teachers or rental/downpayment expenses for teachers relocating, even technology/books/supplies?  Who wrote the parcel tax to shift 25% away from the schools and school personnel?

        1. H Jackson

          I ran into Fernandes to talk to him about it.  He said he drafted it, and let some friends/colleagues look it over.  Fernandes is an attorney, and probably the kind of person to be aware of what needs to be in it.  Some components have been lifted from text of other school parcel taxes.

          I doubt he “got his marching orders from the firefighters.”

          I think this was mainly his thing.

          1. Don Shor

            I ran into Fernandes to talk to him about it.

            Does he now understand that this is a complete disaster? It is likely to do serious harm to the district if he goes forward as it presently stands.

        2. Jim Hoch

          Hi Hiram,

          Thanks for talking to Alan. I supported him in the last election so it pains me to see him go so far wrong. I noted what you wrote and perhaps I am wrong but I am not convinced.

  7. Jeff M

    Here is how the scam is working.

    Liberals in the state voted for liberal politicians running the state who decided yet another way to spend other people’s money in diverting more local school-funding tax revenue from cities like Davis to other cities that have more students that don’t speak English well.  It is called the Local Control Funding Formula.  So basically the teachers, who are primarily liberal, are demanding we be taxed again as a result of California’s liberal open borders sanctuary state pursuit.

    The message is always the same: “See, I spent your tax money for my feel-good liberal progressive agenda and now we don’t have enough for other things, so I need you to give even more of your money.”

    But in Davis this insanity of fiscal unsustainability is acerbated by the other tendency of local liberals to demand scarcity in our city growth and development.

    So the other message is: “We demand that no new development be allowed that risks changing the look and feel of the city.  Just raise taxes on the existing residents instead of looking to increase tax revenue through growth.”

    What we have here is the classic problem of liberals running out of other people’s money.  Until and unless the next tax increase is defeated, they will never learn.

    And in terms of total compensation and actual hours worked, Davis teachers are not underpaid.

  8. Jeff M

    Were can we find the total compensation numbers?  All that the DJUSD posts is the salaries.

    At $37,299 given the 1600 hours per year of work time, equals $23.32 per hour.  That is almost exactly the hourly rate I pay my new collage graduates with a financial account degree.

    The teachers can get a summer job to supplement their income.  Or they can value the time off as in lieu of pay.   But they don’t get to compare their 1600 hour job to someone working the full 2080 hours per year.

    Teachers also get more paid holidays.

    Finally, the teachers get healthcare and retirement benefits in excess of what the vast majority of private-sector workers get.   I believe the value of all of these benefits are being hidden by the teacher union Democrat cabal in order to exaggerate what they are claim as pay disparities.

    1. Ken A

      From the link Ron posted it looks like “every” single mom (or dad) teaching in Davis who does not teach summer school that has six or more kids and living on their own without child support from the baby daddy (or mommy) will qualify for Medi-Cal.  I could be wrong, but I’m betting that Davis has more people with Trump stickers on their cars than single teachers living alone with six kids…

  9. Jeff M

    Here is what the education cabal is either leaving out of the conversation, or they just don’t understand.

    Take a newbie single teacher 25 years old without kids working that 1600 hour per year job.  This teacher will retire at age 62 with 37 years of service.  We will assume today’s dollar so we don’t have to factor inflation.

    $37,299 = Annual salary

    $  5,900 = Annual healthcare benefit

    $ 2,304 = Annual vision, dental and EAP benefits

    $9,720 = Annual monetary pension benefit.

    ————

    $55,223 / 1600 = $34.51 per hour

    @ 2080 hours the equivalent total compensation would be $71,781… very high-end for a 25 year old new college graduate.

    The annual monetary pension benefit is derived as follows:

    Assumptions

    – Retire at age 62 and live for 25 years.

    – Retirement benefit at end of career with 2% @ 62 = 74%

    – Estimated salary at retirement = $86,253

    – Annual pension = $63,827

    – 25 Years of pension = $1,595,675

    – Assuming 4% ROI this would require $1,037,000 in account at retirement (what someone else would need in their 401k at retirement).

    – Assuming a 5% ROI this would require $810 per month be saved/invested for the 37 years of service.

    What is missing from here is the inflation adjustment for the pension… something that provides a much richer benefit than I have calculated.  And it yet another thing that the 401k saver does not get.  Now, the 401k saver gets Social Security… assuming it exists when retirement occurs.

    The bottom line here is that teachers need to start including their rich pension benefit in their discussions about their compensation.

    1. Ken A

      Earlier this year the Bee reported that:

      “The teachers’ retirement system (CalSTRS) is nearly as bad, with $96 billion in debt. Even with a couple of really good years in the stock market, pension debts have grown. The California system of overpromising and underfunding is failing taxpayers, public employees and retirees and wreaking havoc on California’s finances, including those of cities like Sacramento. And the giant CalPERS and CalSTRS pension debts ensure more of the same for decades to come.”

      The people in charge will (almost) all soon be getting pensions of $100-$200K and they are all hoping to hide the fact that we need some real changes not just another parcel tax to fix the problem and make sure the rank and file teachers don’t see cuts to their relatively modest pensions down the road.

      https://www.sacbee.com/opinion/california-forum/article192645574.html

  10. Alan Miller

    >  this is not going to be the community we know within a relatively short period of time.

    You sound “change averse” — ya’mean, change can be BAD???

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