The parcel tax might have been a more interesting question had the school board chosen to take a different path – one that the Vanguard supported and at least two of the candidates (incumbents Alan Fernandes and Susan Lovenburg) back, which is increasing the rate of the parcel tax. As it stands now, the parcel tax is basically at the same rate as was passed in 2012, with polling showing very strong support at that level.
The problem that Jose Granda, who has opposed the parcel taxes going back at least to 2011, is going to have is that, while he can certainly show the burden on the taxpayers, DJUSD with the parcel taxes is an averagely funded school district. Without the parcel taxes, it is significantly below being an averagely funded district.
In his press release, Granda stated, “I am not against taxes for education, in fact I voted for Proposition 30 to fund schools.”
Instead, he argues, “I want to be the voice of efficiency in education and of the 9,253 Davis residents who voted with me against the last parcel tax measure and those that will vote NO on Measure H in November. It is unnecessary, too much for too long. We need to have a constructive, thoughtful and realistic debate about this measure.”
But nowhere in his message does he point out the fact that the district is simply using parcel taxes now to close the gap between what DJUSD gets and what other school districts get. The problem is not waste and inefficiency on the part of DJUSD – the problem is that state funding formulas now severely disadvantage our district and, for whatever reason, our state property tax take is significantly lower than that of other districts.
So, does Mr. Granda wish for the district to operate at a disadvantage?
In past elections, Mr. Granda has explained that he does not like parcel taxes and would prefer a more fair tax. I think most people would agree with him. Parcel taxes are about as bad a tax as we have. First, only homeowners pay them. Second, the tax is assessed on a per parcel basis with a flat rate, regardless of the value of the property – so the person with a $200,000 home pays the same as the person with the $1 million home and pays the same as the owner of an apartment complex.
That is not a good system – but, unfortunately, unless state law is passed it is the only way for school districts to raise their revenue through taxes.
Ironically, Mr. Granda has made the situation locally worse than it was back in 2012. He filed a lawsuit against the school district and, based on another case out of Alameda County, the district decided to settle rather than challenge.
The Alameda tax charged different rates based on parcel type and the courts ruled that was against the constitution. As a result, the district changed its formula from $20 per apartment unit to a flat rate that everyone else pays.
At the time, Mr. Granda stated, “We basically have prevailed in the case and we made our point… We provided a public service by making the district comply with the law.”
But what that decision did was greatly reduce the amount of money that apartment owners had to pay. So now an apartment owner pays the same flat rate as everyone else. That means small apartment complexes pay more than they were paying, but the larger ones pay less – far less.
That means the lawsuit actually makes the parcel tax less equitable, not more equitable, and there is a kicker – the district is now raising the parcel tax rate to account for the gap between what Measure E was supposed to generate and what the lawsuit reduced the amount to.
In essence, the lawsuit will result in less equitable rates – and higher ones.
Mr. Granda is, of course, running on a platform of technology and teachers, but both of those take money – money that the loss of a parcel tax would preclude.
With polling showing strong support for the parcel tax, the election is more likely to be about issues like AIM and the achievement gap, and perhaps LCAP (Local Control and Accountability Plan), than parcel taxes. But stay tuned, as this figures to be a more interesting than usual election.
—David M. Greenwald reporting