Parcel Tax for Employee Compensation Will Need a Lift to Get Passed

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Joe DiNunzio and Alan Fernandes have led the way toward the question of a parcel tax

A poll released by DJUSD shows that passage of a parcel tax at the level of $198 per parcel is close to, but not exceeding, the two-thirds threshold needed for passage.  All the polled parcel taxes are about in the same range, with around 62 percent support and another two to three percent leaning toward supporting the proposal.  Thirty-one to 32 percent are opposing such measures.

The poll was performed once again by EMC Research, the company which has performed a number of surveys for the district over the years.  The survey was conducted from May 7 to 13 with 611 interviews.  Voters were contacted for phone interviews via landline and cell phone, and asked to complete a web version of the survey via email and text invitation.

The margin of error was plus or minus four percentage points.

They split the sample into two – with a flat $198 per parcel tax and 10 cents per square foot tax both surveyed and finding remarkably similar results.  The support for the square footage tax was very slightly lower, interestingly enough, with 58 to 59 percent support (depending on when the tax would be – November 2020 or March 2020), and a five percent lean as opposed to 62 percent support with a two to three percent lean for the flat rate – the more traditional measure.

Question for the flat parcel tax: “To maintain quality education in local public schools by attracting and retaining high performing teachers and educational staff, providing training, resources and classroom support, and sustaining strong academic programs in reading, writing, math, the arts and sciences, shall a Davis Joint Unified School District measure to levy $198 per parcel per year, until repealed, adjusted annually for inflation, be adopted, raising $3,000,000 annually with exemptions for seniors and others allowed by law, with no funds for executive management?”

Question for the square footage parcel tax: “To maintain quality education in local public schools by attracting/retaining high performing teachers and educational staff, providing training, resources/classroom support, sustaining strong academic programs in reading, writing, math, arts and sciences, shall a Davis Joint Unified School District measure to levy at 10 cents per square foot of building area per year, until repealed, adjusted annually for inflation, be adopted, raising $4,200,000 annually with exemptions for seniors and others allowed by law, with no funds for executive management?”

Some of the key findings include the fact that voters “acknowledge the high quality of education provided by local schools, and the vast majority believe investing in quality schools is worthwhile, even if that means raising taxes.”

The support for the $198 parcel tax is “very similar to previous polling” and comes “very close to the two-thirds threshold for passage.”  They note: “Support for a square footage parcel tax measure is slightly lower than support for a flat tax measure. Confusion about how the measure works, or how much it costs, could make it more susceptible to opposition.”

They also note that additional information impacts support.  They write: “Once voters hear about the benefits of locally sourced school funding that keeps school quality high and maintains important academic programs, support surpasses the two-thirds threshold for passage.”

They also note: “Voters’ priorities are clear – they want the District’s focus to be on keeping quality education through quality educators, and maintaining strong academic programs in reading, math, the arts and sciences.”

Other findings are interesting.

For instance, “A majority of voters believes that there is a need for additional funding for local schools.”  But that percentage – 61 percent – is slightly lower than the 67 percent who believed it in April 2018 and higher than the 55 percent who thought it was needed in February 2018 and the 57 percent percent who thought it was needed in May 2016.

Overall ratings are good, except on the management of district monies.

Seventy-one percent believe that the teachers are doing a good or excellent job, and 74 percent think there is a good or excellent quality of education.  The voters rate the district a bit lower, however, on preparing students for college or careers, where 64 percent are positive but just 26 percent believe they are doing an excellent job there.

That number drops further for the overall job that the district is doing, with 63 percent rating it good or excellent but just 19 percent rate it excellent.

Where the district continues to do poorly is with management of district monies, as 31 percent think good or excellent with just five believing excellent, and 35 percent believe fair or poor with 34 percent not knowing.  Those are similar numbers to the last poll.

The tax sentiment ratings remain steady for the most part, and here the results are fairly mixed.

The good thing is that the question “Maintaining the quality of our schools should be a top priority, even if it means raising taxes” remains solid.  Seventy-nine percent support, but that is slightly down from previous polls.

More concerning is the drop in agreement with the next question: “I trust the Davis Joint Unified School District to properly manage tax dollars.”  That score has fallen from 65 percent last year to 56 percent this year.

The last area is steady, but concerning: “Taxes in this area are already high enough; I’ll vote against any additional tax measure, even for Davis schools.”  The number is 37 percent, up from 36 percent last year and 34 percent in 2016.

They also measure components – the district gets the highest scores for “Maintaining quality education in local public schools,” and “Sustaining strong academic programs in reading, writing, math, arts and sciences.”

For this measure, a key question is: “Attracting and retaining high performing teachers and  educational staff.”  That scores third highest.  However, one of the lower priorities is “raising pay for teachers and staff,” at 45 percent compared to 64 percent percent for the top priorities, and 54 percent for attracting and retaining teachers.

The pollsters conclude: “Passage of a parcel tax measure is feasible for a 2020 ballot, however, a robust, privately funded communications effort will be critical to ensure voters understand the educational benefits of a parcel tax measure.”

Second, they argue: “Increasing awareness about how a parcel tax will maintain quality education in local schools by attracting and retaining outstanding teachers and educational support staff would be essential to solidifying support.”

Third, they argue: “A flat parcel tax measure appears to be slightly more digestible to voters, as a square footage measure may be confusing.”

—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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23 thoughts on “Parcel Tax for Employee Compensation Will Need a Lift to Get Passed”

  1. Jim Hoch

    Thank you David though from your analysis the conclusion “Passage of a parcel tax measure is feasible for a 2020 ballot, however, a robust, privately funded communications effort will be critical to ensure voters understand the educational benefits of a parcel tax measure.” seems to be unsupported. I would think that the better idea is to provide confidence that DJU can be trusted with money.

  2. Hiram Jackson

    In related news, this past Tuesday L.A. Unified voters rejected (gaining only 45%) a school parcel tax measure that would have assessed based on square footage.  Passage there was always going to be a heavier lift, though in recent years there had been more turmoil with their school board and administrative direction.

    L.A. Times, 5 June 2019: A political disaster: How Measure EE, L.A. schools tax hike, failed so badly

     

        1. Bill Marshall

          And, with ‘pols’… same issue…

          You can also add “consultants who charge you to borrow your watch to tell you what time it is”…

  3. Alan Miller

    To maintain quality education in local public schools by attracting and retaining high performing teachers and educational staff, providing training, resources and classroom support, and sustaining strong academic programs in reading, writing, math, the arts and sciences, shall . . . ?????

    No bias in that wording RO-F-ing-FL . . . ;-(

    1. Jim Hoch

      You think the people in charge of spending money will look after themselves first? It’s been a month or two since Bowes got a raise or a bonus. Perhaps they have just given him extra “expense” money as it seems like an unusually long time.

  4. Alan Miller

    Taxes in this area are already high enough; I’ll vote against any additional tax measure, even for Davis schools.”  The number is 37 percent, up from 36 percent last year and 34 percent in 2016.

    Perhaps if you pump the green cow full or hormones, it’ll produce more green milk.

    . . . until you kill it.

  5. Alan Miller

    “A flat parcel tax measure appears to be slightly more digestible to voters, as a square footage measure may be confusing.”

    True.  We are a stupid people.

    1. Bill Marshall

      Interesting how few folk even know the sq footage of their dwelling… if they (DJUSD) go that way (per sq ft), if we’d stayed in our older house, where we raised our kids, we’d pay ‘much’ less $198… in our current abode, with no school aged children, we’d pay ‘much’ more than $198… but, a big %-age of a small number, is still a small number… most folk don’t get that, either… and, a small %-age of a large # can be a large #…

      And, come the election, we can vote in favor of sq ft assessment, knowing we can exempt ourselves… priceless!  Heck we could even vote for an assessment 10 times higher!

      This whole ‘exemption thing’ is just wrong… if a ~ $200/year assessment/tax makes or breaks anyone (homeowners/renters of SF houses), they are already in serious trouble… the exemption thing is/has been a cynical ploy to get votes… as was the approach of assessing a 200+ MF parcel the same as a SF residence…

        1. Bill Marshall

          98.5% confidence level… NO… either you take the exemption in real time, or don’t… it does not create a “lien” on the property if/when you take the exemption.

          Now, if someone taking the exemption felt ‘exemptees’ guilt, they (or their estate) could  always “gift” the District, for exempted levies, with or without interest…

          The other “philosophical” complication is the change in Fed tax laws, limiting total exemptions/deductions to $10 k… combined state income and prop taxes (thank you all Republicans! [who wanted to stick it to New York, CA, etc.])… but, since the tax/assessment for DJUSD would be, @ lowest to highest proposed rates, assuming even a 50% tax bracket… well, the technical term is “de minimus” I believe… except to folk who don’t “get” math… or are more frugal than Scrooge…

          But only DJUSD can fully answer your question…

          When I look at the 2 Mello-Roos levies by DJUSD (which cannot be deferred nor pre-paid), the %-age of our property tax goes to schools, other school measures… ~ $200/year is de minimus as to the totals we contribute… my problem isn’t that I don’t like school assessments, it is just the principle/’principal’ of the thing (paraphrasing Dad, who said, “it’s not that I didn’t like HS, it was just the Principal of the thing”)…

          The other concern I have is that any increase in DJUSD levies will likely work to defeat any City levy proposals/continuances for City services/infrastructure… which, given history, means the City will be “respectful” and hold off until the school district does their thing… a “strategy” that has not worked out well for the City… after all, “it’s for the kids”…

        2. Hiram Jackson

          Bill Marshall: ‘The other concern I have is that any increase in DJUSD levies will likely work to defeat any City levy proposals/continuances for City services/infrastructure… which, given history, means the City will be “respectful” and hold off until the school district does their thing… a “strategy” that has not worked out well for the City… after all, “it’s for the kids”…’

          In contrast, Los Angeles seems more easily willing to tax themselves to fund city infrastructure for transportation, homelessness, and parks, all since 2016, and all requiring 2/3 vote for passage.

        3. Bill Marshall

          Ok… timed out…

          Hiram… your comment noted…

          As to the sidebar, President Grant was born Hiram Ulysses Grant… when getting an appointment to West Point, he didn’t want initials H.U.G. on his foot locker (yeah, a “guy thing”)… so, he changed it to Ulysses Hiram Grant… then some perfunctory picked up on his mother’s maiden name, Simpson… hence, U.S. Grant… history is FUNdamental… somewhat on topic…

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            I always think of Hiram Johnson (similar name) but an important California Governor in state history.

  6. Laurie Rollins

    Does anyone know how hangups are accounted for in telephone polls?  Do the pollsters keep track of  the demographics of the replies and hang ups?  I used to love answering polls, but now we just hang up when the person doesn’t answer right away, the caller isn’t properly identified or sounds like a computer.  If it’s a real person they can call back and leave a message.  Pollsters never do that.

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