What to Make of the Measure A Financials?

schoolThe last financial statements are now in from Measure A.  While this seems to be one of the more contested parcel taxes we have seen, the amount of organized opposition, even this time, is fairly small, as the No on Measure A committee named “Davis Taxpayers Against Measure A” received a total of 740 dollars from three donors.

Two of those donors should be no surprise to anyone: Jose Granda who has been been one of the more outspoken opponents of this measure chipped in 130 dollars, while Thomas Randall chipped in ten.  The third donor bears some scrutiny: six hundred from Voters for District Elections.

The Enterprise reports that Voters for District Elections is a group led by Ernie Head who circulated petitions last year attempting to change Davis City Council elections to a district election system.  However, the petition drive really did not go anywhere.

That begs the question as to where that $600 actually came from.  District elections has been toyed with on all sides of the aisle as a way to reduce the need to spend money on campaigns, among other things.  It is not known if they collected donations more broadly, but one can only imagine how someone would feel if money that was collected to support district elections actually went to opposing a school parcel tax.

The second point that we would make is that all told, the campaign to support Measure A has spent just under $18,000.  Now something has been made about the 24:1 spending advantage of the Yes on Measure A campaign.

I suppose you can make an issue of most things, but the spending advantage is largely a reflection of the lack of organized campaign on the part of the opposition than it is any huge spending boom for the supporters of the measure.

$17,774 in spending is just not that much money.  It is less than the typical Davis City Council campaign.  And in fact, it is much less than what was spent on Measure W.  Measure W campaign spent over twice this amount, at roughly $40,000.

Included in the $13,000 in campaign contributions in the last reporting period is a large number of contributions from developers including the Yackzans, Roes, Whitcombs and Strengs.

It is hard to know what the rationale for those contributions are.  But these are long term residents who have contributed heavily to the schools in the past.  It seems difficult to draw a line between parcel tax money and the need for development.

The declining enrollment and thus the decline in ADA (average daily attendance) money to the schools has often been cited as a rationale for more development. 

So I make the point because it certainly caught my attention to see $1000 and $500 contributions from known developers.

There is also another oddity, a commenter noted and we confirmed.  Two of the donors to Measure A: Dean Unger and Paul Makley both gave $500 contributions to the Measure A campaign despite the fact that they took exemptions for the Measure Q or Measure W (or both).

The Vanguard was able to obtain a list of all individuals who received exemptions for the last parcel tax.

According to the Attorney General, “Claims for senior citizens’ exemptions from assessment of a parcel tax levied by a school district are subject to inspection by members of the general public. ”  The issue was determined back in 1998 by the Attorney General.

In 1998, a district “was ordered to produce the list of exempt seniors in response to a Public Records Act request” because “1) there was no statute specifically prohibiting the disclosure of such information; 2) while a person’s age might be “personal” information, it was not akin to personnel or medical files and therefore the production of that information was not an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy; 3) under Government Code section 6255’s balancing test, the primary benefit of disclosing agency records to the public to promote government accountability outweighed any privacy concerns.”

Legally speaking of course, anyone has the right to seek an exemption who is over 65 years of age.

But practically speaking, does it make a lot of sense for someone who is willing to donate $500 to not be willing to make their parcel tax payment?

As we have previously reported, state law is very restrictive as to how a district can raise money.  They cannot use a general purpose tax to do it.  And the senior exemption is the only allowable exemption and there is no means test for it.

That means that a number of people who took exemptions could perfectly afford to pay it, but instead opted to take an exemption (which is of course their right).

Overall, I presented this more as a matter of curiosity than anything else.  The real take-home message, I think, is that there was still no real organized opposition to the parcel tax.  Now, given the two-thirds requirements and some of the controversies that emerged in this campaign, this is no slam dunk. 

But the fact that no credible and organized campaign emerged against the parcel tax ought to give proponents a small bit of solace going into the last full week of the campaign.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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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3 Comments

  1. rusty49

    “But practically speaking does it make a lot of sense for someone who is willing to donate $500 to not be willing to make their parcel tax payment?”

    Do as I say, not as I do.

  2. wdf1

    [i]Included in the $13,000 in campaign contributions in the last reporting period is a large number of contributions from developers including the Yackzans, Roes, Whitcombs and Strengs.

    It is hard to know what the rationale for those contributions are. But these are long term residents who have contributed heavily to the schools in the past. It seems difficult to draw a line between parcel tax money and the need for development.[/i]

    I have spoken with local real estate agents who definitely think that the parcel tax funding improves the schools which in turn makes houses more valuable to prospective owners.

    I can imagine that’s what developers might think, as well, although I imagine there are other reasons.

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