Board Awaits Chance to Set Parcel Tax


Parcel-Tax-ChalkBy Nicholas von Wettberg   

Diplomas have been passed out to all the proud graduates of Davis Joint Unified School District (DJUSD) schools.

The district’s board of education, fresh off their hiring of new Superintendent Dr. John Bowes, anticipates a break of its own next month. First, though, they must attend to some last-minute business.

Four of the trustees – minus President Madhavi Sunder – met for the final regular meeting on Thursday, June 16, at the Community Chambers.

Because of Sunder’s absence, there was little in the way of an agenda, with no update on the school parcel tax.

A pair of back-to-back special meetings, however, will give the board a chance to determine the final amount and the language to be included in the 75-word measure on the November ballot.

Those meetings are scheduled to take place on the morning of Tuesday, June 28 (8:30 am), and in the evening on Wednesday, June 29.

When last heard from as a complete unit – back on June 4 – the board was unified on putting a parcel tax measure on the ballot, but divided over the exact sum it believed voters would be willing to pay.

Passage of the measure requires a supermajority vote of two-thirds by the voters at the polls.

The necessary basement funding generated from a passed tax at a rate of $620 for eight years would add up to a total of $9.5 million per year, which is 12 percent of the district’s current operating budget.

According to a draft of the measure, the amount would “maintain outstanding programs in math, science, reading and writing; retain high-quality teachers; keep class sizes small; support student health and safety; and maintain student athletics, arts and music programs…”

One of two measures (Measure E) that make up the current parcel tax expires on June 30, 2017. The measure also happens to be the last parcel tax Davis voted on, in November 2012. That amount was for $204 for four years (it passed with 69 percent of the votes).

If the statewide Proposition 30 (temporary tax initiative to fund education) had been voted down in that election, the district would have had the opportunity to levy an additional $242 in “qualified special taxes,” added onto Measure E.

There is pending litigation, as a result of the Court of Appeal ruling on Borikas v. Alameda Unified School District (Dec. 6, 2012), that the measure “exceeded the district’s taxing authority,” and “imposed a different parcel tax rate on different types of property.”

In the Alameda case, the school district may have to repay a reported $7 million under a measure now held invalid.

Voters in Davis passed Measure C in March of 2012, which went for an amount of $320 for five years (also expires June 30, 2017).

In each of the surveys recently completed by EMC Research – for the board to gauge interest levels – results showed that 71 percent of the 400 Davis voters polled would support a potential school parcel tax at the $620 amount.

Also explored in the surveys was voter support for an eight-year school parcel tax of $750 (63 percent with a solid yes) or $960 (55 percent with a solid yes).

Environment, or school climate, is an issue inherent with the passage of any measure. Davis has on the line a 32-year streak of approving school parcel taxes.

In the follow-up telephone survey that was conducted by EMC in mid-May, 72 percent of the likely voters said they were optimistic, believing that “things here in Davis are generally going in the right direction.”

The overall response reveals a positive level of trust (as did answers about the quality of education), in regard to what voters think about the school board, the district, the school’s teachers and administration, etc.

Achieving a unanimous vote on the parcel tax amount, according to trustee Susan Lovenburg, is “a really important message to convey to the community that we’re all behind this, which means there’s going to be some give and take here for us because we’re sort of, there’s a range here. There’s a range from $620 to $960.”

“From my perspective, if we can we come down on the amount tonight, we have another meeting to work on some of the specifics so I feel a little under the pressure on amount and I actually do think the one thing that I push back at, is we haven’t done any preparation for this,” Lovenburg said at the meeting on June 4. “We are more prepared going into this tax than we have been in my entire tenure on the board and that in large part is due to all of you and the interest in making sure that everybody knows what is funded by the parcel taxes…”

She added: “And for myself, I am in the middle. I do think that the polling results for $960 don’t demonstrate to me confidence that the community is able to support that amount, but I have the same concerns as Alan (Fernandes) – $620 is an increase so you’ve sort of taken the whole, ‘it’s a renewal’ question off the table, we don’t have that option so we have a risk with whatever we go with and given the polling numbers of the $620 and the $750 I have confidence based on my experience in the past that we can get there, this community can get there.”

Lovenburg said that she “definitely” supported a measure for $750 and had “almost” been convinced to go with $960 after fellow board member Fernandes had reasoned earlier in the discussion that the higher amount would provide funding for not only improved student programs and services to help in closing the achievement gap, but also for reserve funds that could be helpful come an economic downturn.

Board vice-president Barbara Archer, who took over for Sunder at Thursday’s meeting, felt the same pressure as Lovenburg about making a decision that evening, yet still aiming to reach consensus as a board.

Archer had anticipated that Sunder would not be in attendance on Thursday, and expressed her concern on June 4 that things would not be sorted out until after her return, which it turns out is pretty much what happened.


About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

Related posts

36 thoughts on “Board Awaits Chance to Set Parcel Tax”

  1. WesC

    Looks like the board will have at least 2 votes for a $960 tax amount.  With a annual increase tied to inflation we are talking about a good sized dent in the pocketbook.

      1. Tia Will


        A question with no intended sarcasm. Since the alternative to a new parcel tax would appear to be a cut in educational programs, do you favor these cuts over a parcel tax ?

    1. quielo

      When I see the phrase “closing the achievement gap” it means to me “they want you to pay for programs to benefit someone else’s kids”.

        1. quielo

          When my kids were in LAUSD I was told that my children were not a priority as the district had such a  large population of challenged students that I was selfish to think only of my children. I moved to a district that mainly cared about students who were motivated and my kids loved going to school everyday. Now Davis would like me to pay additional taxes to devalue my own kids. I can tell you from being on the AIM mailing lists that those parents are looking to vote down this parcel tax to make a statement.

          If I had a special needs child and worked (and sued) relentlessly to obtain resources many people would say “what a hero” yet if you have average to bright children and you would like to ensure their needs are met you are given lame platitudes.

          1. David Greenwald

            I’m not following you. The parcel tax goes for local programs only. How does that devalue your own kids?

        2. hpierce

          And, if AIM parents are not supporting the renewal, “to make a statement”, they are cutting off their nose to spite their faces, and I will vote against it too, in order to support them… pains me, as I support special ed for ALL who need it, but if they want to “race to the bottom”, perhaps now is the time…

          The historic term is “Mutual Assured Destruction”, or, MAD…

        3. wdf1

          In general the programs that I have seen funded by the district’s school parcel tax don’t tend to focus specifically on achievement gap issues, but rather fund programs that tend to be available to benefit all students — 7th period for secondary students, elementary music, elementary science, smaller class size, library staff.

          Funding for achievement gap-related programs more often comes from targeted money from the state or federal government.  That money will still come, regardless of the status of a school parcel tax.

        4. quielo

          David, HPierce, and wtf1.

          Again I will preface this with I am new in town. However I talk to a lot of people and the parents consistently say to me that they believe the board priorities are not their priorities. The AIM program is used as a proxy for the goals of the board. AIM was not expensive and very popular with parents yet was butchered anyway. The spin I generally hear was that the interests of children was sacrificed for the political (anti-elitist) viewpoint of the board. There is also some talk that an anti-Asian bias is at work and the board sees Asian children as less important than AA or Latino children. The “achievement gap” rhetoric I read in both the Vanguard and the Enterprise feeds into this view as it appears that the parcel tax money will be diverted to programs targeting lower preforming students. I appreciate wdf1 outlining what the money is spent on.

          1. David Greenwald

            The parcel tax has to lay out how it will be spent and then there is an oversight committee that monitor the spending.

            Here is how the Measure C and E fund (which the new parcel tax would replace) were allocated:

            Measure C was approved by the community in March 2012 and levies a tax of $320/parcel ($150/multi-dwelling properties) generating $6.4 million annually. The purpose of the measure is to preserve and continue to fund the following specific programs and services:

            Continue to provide opportunities for all students to reach proficiency by supporting improved instruction in math and reading;
            Continued availability of elementary science instruction programs;
            Continued reduced class sizes for elementary grades;
            Continued availability of sufficient numbers of classes in secondary core subjects including science, math, English and social studies;
            Continued availability of multiple foreign language programs;
            Continued availability of elementary and secondary school music programs;
            Continued availability of advanced placement classes;
            Continued availability of junior and senior high (secondary) school physical education programs
            Continued availability of elementary and secondary school librarian services;
            Continued availability of school counselor, school nurse, other student support staff positions
            Continued availability of athletics and co-curricular programs including drama, debate and journalism programs;
            Providing supplemental staff training for classified and certificated employees;
            Improving student nutrition by providing fresh farm produce from scratch meals;
            Providing additional classroom and library instructional materials, technological materials, equipment and services, and other educational equipment for schools.

            * * * *

            Measure E was approved by voters on November 6, 2012 ballot to continue programs funded by Measure A and to protect Davis schools from additional state revenue cuts. The ballot text follows:

            To offset the continued loss of significant state funding, shall the Davis Joint Unified School District be authorized to continue a special tax for a period of 4 years not to exceed the base annual rate of $204.00 per parcel.

            The purpose of the measure is to continue the programs and services previously funded by Measure A, including:

            Reduced class sizes for K-6, English and math
            Availability of classes in core subjects such as science and history;
            Availability of multiple foreign language programs;
            Availability of elective course offerings such as fine art and Career Technical Education;
            Retaining counseling staffing;
            Continued targeted achievement support in Reading and Math; and
            Continued availability of school site safety and support staff.

            Now I happen to strongly support closing the achievement gap, but as you can see, for the most part these monies went to general programs. LCFF is more likely to fund efforts to close the achievement gap.

  2. SODA

    Seems strange that if Ms Sunder’s absence was anticipated, why wasn’t there an agenda and more accomplished or why have the meeting? Just asking…..

        1. David Greenwald

          And I believe if they run a strong campaign, they can win. It’s not a guarantee, but I think we need the additional funding. It would be nice to have a rainy day fund so that next downturn we aren’t immediately forced to layoff teachers.

        2. Barack Palin

          Rainy day fund?  How long before they dip into that saying they need it for ‘whatever’  then all of a sudden we have another cost that needs to be perpetually funded?

          1. David Greenwald

            A parcel tax comes with a description as to what it can be spent on – so they wouldn’t simply be able to dip into that fund whenever they feel the need.

  3. WesC

    A 3% inflation clause will put it over $1,000 in just 2 years.

    I still think the all or nothing nature of the vote will guarantee passage at any amount.  Kind of like a scenario where the someone has a kid hostage and is saying give me the money and I mean all of it or the kid gets it.



    1. hpierce

      Interesting posit on 3%… last year, inflation was so low that most pensions tied to inflation saw a 0.0% increase… 3% increase for DTA, etc.?

  4. nameless

    Anything above $620 and I will vote a resounding NO.  In light of the wasteful spending on Volleyballgate, the closure of Valley Oak, the disgraceful way the MPR was handled, the awful way in which the GATE program was reduced, I’m going to have to hold my nose to even vote Yes for $620.  But I will not vote for one penny more, period, end of discussion for me.  I will not budge on that position.  I know others who feel exactly the same way.

  5. Tia Will


    But I will not vote for one penny more, “

    Fortunately, for the public education of the current crop of students, polling would suggest that there are more who feel differently from you than those who feel “exactly the same way”.

    1. quielo

      Hi Tia,


      I would not put too much faith into the polling numbers. There has been no discussion and no opposition to this point so what will happen later is very hard to predict. People tend to be more generous when the bill is a long way off, when it looks like real money out of pocket typically willingness abates.

      1. David Greenwald

        Quielo: As someone who claims to be new here, you need to understand a few things here. First, since 2007, the school district has put five measures on the ballot in 2007, 2008, 2011, and twice in 2012. All of them passed. Only in 2011 when it got 67% of the vote did it come close to failing. Second, there is no organized opposition to the measures. There are a couple of guys who oppose all taxes, but they don’t raise money, they don’t campaign, and they don’t really understand financing and have never been successful at creating any type of real opposition. In short, the history over the last decade is that the polling fairly accurately predicts levels of support. The community has by a more than two to one margin and sometimes a 3 to 1 margin backed taxes for schools.

        1. Barack Palin

          Yes, but they’ve never been asked for it all in one lump sum like what the board is thinking of presenting now.  When voters look at $620 to possibly $950 they’re going to have second thoughts.  Please, please go for $950.

        2. South of Davis

          BP wrote:

          > Yes, but they’ve never been asked for it all in one lump sum

          > like what the board is thinking of presenting now.  

          Most Americans are not good at math (and why so many think that “three low payments of $39/month” is affordable when they would never spend over $100 on something)…

        3. Barack Palin

          Totally agree, it all adds up.  Like David saying the proposed county sales tax hike is only $50/year or it’s only one Starbucks latte a week.

        4. quielo



          Not sure what you are saying. Did they poll first using the same methodology and then those numbers accurately predicted historical election results or are you saying that the polling numbers are congruent with past actual and you believe in them for that reason?

          My point was that polls taken by interested parties to indicate willingness-to-pay have a long history of inaccuracy. Past voting is of course a very relevant benchmark.

          The parents I speak to are pretty fired up about the perception that the board does not represent the interests of our children. Of course that is an anecdotal design with a brutal cluster bias so I understand it’s not project-able.


          1. David Greenwald

            Fair points. I can only really go by past history and current polling. I understand that there is some frustration, but I’m not sure it’s translating into opposition for the parcel tax.

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
Sign up for