Board Hears Presentation on the Feasibility of a Facilities Bond in November

Rendering of a Davis Student Center

While the consultants from EMC Research did not recommend running a parcel tax concurrently with a facilities bond, they conducted a 400-person poll from April 18 to 24 and found that there was sufficient support for a facilities bond that the school district could consider as an avenue for addressing school facilities needs – which is a separate pot of general fund money which can only be used for instructional purposes.

The purpose of the survey was “to identify the level of support for a potential $150,900,000 bond measure for the November 2018 ballot, to provide funding to upgrade school safety and security systems and update classrooms and other academic facilities.”

Their findings included: “Voters continue to recognize the high quality of education provided by Davis public schools, and they rate the quality and safety of schools and grounds positively as well.”

Unlike a parcel tax, a facilities bond takes a 55 percent vote.  They found that support was above the 55 percent threshold for passage, “but total support is something soft.”

They found, “Among voters, modernizing classrooms and labs to meet current academic standards and basic repairs to keep schools in good condition are high priorities for bond expenditures.”

They further found, “Reassuring voters that all funds will be spent locally on Davis schools and that funds will modernize classrooms and bring school facilities up to date helps solidify support for the measure.”

In general, the majority of the voters are optimistic about the direction overall.  They found 69 percent believe that things are headed in the right direction, which is somewhat higher than the 64 percent who expressed that view in February of this year.

Two thirds of the voters now say there is at least some need for additional funding for Davis public schools.  Only 56 percent said that in February.  It is unclear what triggered that view, but perhaps the prolonged discussion over teacher compensation was a factor.

The district continues to receive high marks for quality of education and the quality and safety of schools and grounds.  Between 75 percent and 85 percent cite the quality of education, overall safety of the schools, quality of schools and grounds as being high.  And 75 percent say the job that DJUSD is doing overall is excellent.

The one area where the district is dinged is management of district monies, where only 42 percent believe it is excellent or good.  Then 37 percent say it’s fair or poor.  Another 21 percent of voters don’t know.

The survey asked this question: “To upgrade school safety and security systems, update classrooms, science labs, innovation labs and facilities to meet current academic standards, and equip classrooms with twenty-first century learning technology, shall Davis Joint Unified School District issue $150,900,000 in bonds, at legal interest rates, raising an average of $10,000,000 annually to repay bonds while they are outstanding, at an estimated rate of $60 per $100,000 of assessed value, with citizen oversight, annual audits, no funds for administrator salaries, and funds staying local?”

They found overall there was 67 percent support, to 30 percent against.  But that includes “leans.”  They broke it down and found 58 percent solid support with 9 percent leaning yes, versus 27 percent a solid no and 3 percent leaning no.

They conclude: “Initial support for a bond measure is above the 55% threshold needed for passage, but total support may be somewhat soft.”

They are a little more concerned here, where they found that support among high propensity voters is just under the 55 percent threshold.  Their recommendation therefore was that the district hold this in a November general election where medium and low propensity voters are more likely to vote.

These are components the public is willing to support.

This shows they are more likely to support technology in the classroom, but less likely to support things that appear to be extras.  Support for an aquatic facility is below 50 percent for instance, but upgrading earthquake safety, improvements of athletic fields, and multipurpose space are around 60 percent, with less than a quarter in most cases viewing it as extremely important.

The strong measures of support: “Voters react positively to messages about the revenue staying local, upgrading aging buildings, and modernizing classrooms and labs to keep pace with today’s standards.”

They find support for: “Good schools are part of what makes our community a desirable place to live. By keeping our schools strong, we maintain high property values in the Davis area.”

They find support as well for a citizen’s oversight committee (76 percent) and around 60 percent agreement for the notion: “There is nothing more important than protecting our children while they are at school. This measure will upgrade essential school safety and security with fencing, security cameras and access control.”

They also found concerns that work, including the fact that the district just passed a parcel tax, and the lack of deductibility of the local taxes.  There was some support for: “Taxes in our area are already high enough. We should reject this measure to prevent tax increases for local homeowners.”


  • Voters understand the high quality of education provided by local schools and are willing to invest in keeping them up to date.
  • A bond measure appears viable for the November 2018 ballot.
  • Although some voters initially appear somewhat hesitant to support the measure, information about how the bond will help modernize classrooms and keep schools in good repair helps solidify support substantially.
  • A significant portion of voters are sensitive to opposition messages emphasizing how this measure will add to the tax burden. A strong, privately funded communications effort is therefore recommended to ensure voters are aware of the benefits this measure will provide for local students.

The board took no action at this time, but they are looking at a possible parcel tax as well as the facilities tax.

—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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  1. Howard P

    … a facilities bond that the district could consider that as an avenue for address school facilities needs which is a separate pot of from general fund money which can only be used for instructional purposes.

    Could someone provide legal cites for this?  I’ve long known that sale of district property proceeds can only be used for capital purposes, but the other way?  Sounds like saying all rectangles are squares…

    At least for municipalities, general fund monies are general … can be used for any purpose including “instructional”, operations, maintenance, and capital improvement…

    I’d be more inclined to vote for a facilities bond, if the need is demonstrated, than a GF parcel tax…

    The quoted statement seems so bass-ackwards…

      1. Howard P

        Still, the concept that school GF funds can ONLY be applied to instructional purposes (which arguably excludes Admin, operations, maintenance, and capital improvements) eludes me…

        1. David Greenwald

          You’re cutting it too narrowly.

          Facilities money: capital infrastructure
          General fund: operating expenses, most salaries for teachers, classified employees, and administrators and basic supplies

          There are further complications like categorical funding, but I’m trying to keep this simple

    1. David Greenwald

      I don’t know how people expect facilities that are already half a century old to maintain themselves. Probably why the majority is supporting this.

        1. David Greenwald

          I don’t know how we will have quality schools with aging infrastructure. This is the same problem as with the city – maybe worse. Last facilities bond I think passed in 2000.

    2. Tia Will

      Davis, where they keep adding more and more taxes on homeowners.”

      Who are usually, although not always, the best equipped to pay for those amenities that keep home prices high.


      1. Keith O

        Home prices won’t stay high if they keep raising the taxes.  Don’t you think prospective homebuyers take property taxes into consideration before purchasing?  Add to that the new tax bill greatly reduces the ability to write those taxes off.

        1. Tia Will

          Home prices won’t stay high if they keep raising the taxes.”

          I am glad you brought up this point. You have been bringing it up for years on the Vanguard. Our extended family has sold two homes in Davis over the past 7 years, I will share our experiences.

          Home in Village Homes 7 years ago: Sold immediately above asking price in a mini “bidding war”.

          Home in NorthStar 3 months ago: Sold immediately on word of mouth prior to listing even though was an “as is”, market rate sale with significant work to be done. I could have engaged in a bidding war and probably gotten significantly more, but I wanted to sell to a particular individual who I felt would be a good steward for both the home and the neighborhood.

          In both cases, 7 years apart, the buyers were well aware of the taxes and likelihood of increases.

        2. Jeff M

          Your post is nonsensical relative to Keith O’s point.  The higher the taxes the higher the total cost of housing and the more Davis will stay high-income and white.

          Yes, there are plenty of high-income white people to pay the high price of Davis housing.  I guess that is what the majority of the community wants as they vote against housing development and for higher taxes.

          1. David Greenwald

            “The higher the taxes the higher the total cost of housing and the more Davis will stay high-income and white.”

            I think the cost of housing rather than the taxes are the bigger factor there.

        3. Howard P

          And, who is responsible for that new tax bill?

          So, if you put 10% down on a house, with a $750 k mortgage ($825,00 purchase price), you’ll still be able to deduct the interest cost.  @ 4% interest that’s worth?  Early years, it’s high, but covered… still deductible… what’s it worth?

          Let’s say $3600 /month interest payment… what tax bracket? Let’s say 20%… so, let’s do the math… you can afford to spend over $43 k per year and get a reduction of $8,600 in fed taxes… you still are out of pocket $34,000… @ the common standard of your housing costs should be less than 30% of your income… means you’d need a family income of $113,000/yr… but, you still get the deduction…

          So WTF has an additional $600/yr [just using a high number] ($50/mo) got to do with that calculus?

          Your argument about additional taxes and the new R tax cuts “doesn’t hunt”… it does “sniff”, tho’… [moderation prevents me from saying what it sniffs like…]


        4. Keith O

          Howard, you obviously are somewhat naïve when it comes to the new tax bill.  I’m not referring to the interest deduction, my post was in reference to the property tax deduction which most taxpayers will no longer be able to take the full advantage of .  State income tax and property taxes are all lumped together now and most taxpayers will exceed the $10,000 limit which was put in place by the new bill thereby not getting the full write off of their property taxes.  Secondly, the standard $24,000 deduction for everyone will further erode the benefit of owning a home as renters get the same write off.  Howard, do a little more research before you comment.

      2. Howard P

        OK Keith… [your 11:05 riposte]

        Property taxes on the $850,000 home would be a basic $8500/year… less than the mortgage interest, by far… at a 20% Fed tax rate, that’s (based on my posit of a 20% tax rate) a reduction of $1700 in federal taxes… or, $142/month… so, someone is paying nearly $3700/month for principal and interest, and an increase of $50/month is going to change their calculus?  The $142/month (3.8%) will change anything?  Much less the $50/month?


  2. Todd Edelman

    This is good AND we really need a school bus program! It’s totally-irresponsible that we don’t complement our good non-geographic catchment situation with appropriate transportation for younger kids from unincorporated areas or from Davis across town – they cannot easily cycle take Unitrans, etc. on their own. It may even be appropriate to have Unitrans student staff drive these buses.
    School buses would also be used to take all students to sports and other events in the region – right now we have high school students who drive their teammates home after a game!
    The automobile intensity for the school commute is a disgusting shame and no amount of happy anthropomorphic pennyfarthing mascots handing out balloons that say “watch for cars” makes it better.


  3. Tia Will

    there are plenty of high-income white people to pay the high price of Davis housing.”

    Now that is interesting. I don’t recall specifying the race of the individuals I sold to. You happened to be 1/2 right. But demonstrates your thought process.

    As for nonsense, I don’t think so. Two immediate at market or higher sales with 7 years intervening. Perhaps Keith would like to postulate when this crisis of tax driven inability to buy/sell houses is going to occur.

  4. Tia Will

    It may even be appropriate to have Unitrans student staff drive these buses.”

    I don’t know about the current law, but many years ago in a school district far, far away when I was driving a school bus, you had to be a least 21 to drive a school bus.

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