District Comes Forward with Language for a Permanent $198 Parcel Tax

Joe DiNunzio speaks on this issue in April

Two weeks ago, the DJUSD School Board approved in concept the placement of a $198 parcel tax on the ballot that would close the teacher compensation gap.  They asked for district staff to come back with specific language.

Among the goals of the measure would be to “attract and retain high performing teachers and educational staff,” “maintain high teaching standards to continue excellent education in local public schools,” “provide quality educators to support strong academic programs in reading, writing, math, arts and sciences,” and “ensure students have the teaching support needed to prepare them for college and 21st-century careers.”

The specific proposed language: “To attract and retain quality teachers and staff by keeping compensation competitive, in order to preserve outstanding instruction in math, science, reading, writing, and technology; support athletics, arts and music; limit class sizes; and support student health and safety; shall a permanent Davis Joint Unified School District parcel tax of $198 per year, adjusted annually for inflation, be adopted, raising approximately $3 million/year, with senior, disability, employee exemptions and citizens oversight; for the exclusive use of District schools?”

The district will continue the current exemptions – anyone over 65, anyone on SSI or disability, and district employees.

The tax unlike previous taxes does not have a termination date, which means it would remain on the books unless repealed or replaced.

Alan Fernandes who, along with Joe DiNunzio, has been a driving force behind the push for an employee compensation parcel tax, said at the last meeting that the board has been grappling with this issue for some time.

“We started down the road of first recognizing that there is a gap and then understanding what that gap is,” he said.

He noted that they have come to this conclusion, after recognizing the historical reasons for the gap and the ability of the board to solve that gap.

“What we as a community know, maybe better than most communities, is the ways in which we can increase our revenue – and the manner with which we can control our costs are somewhat limited,” Mr. Fernandes stated.

He said that the school really lacks a lot of authority and discretion.

“The reality is most of what we do is either required by law and the funding that we get is predominantly from the state,” he said.

“We looked at what our options are,” he said.  “The parcel tax is the most direct and honest way to approach the topic.

“Where we are today is, in my view, at a decision point whether we continue down this path of asking the voters, explaining to the voters, and ultimately asking them to value teachers the way we value teachers here at the district,” he said.  He said the best way is to “proceed with the parcel tax for teacher compensation.”

Joe DiNunzio, who made the motion and served with Alan Fernandes on the subcommittee, said: “It has to be clear to the community that it’s the right thing to do, it’s the fiscally responsible thing to do, and it’s the clearest path to achieve our goals.”

He called this “an issue of fairness, a moral imperative to make sure that we are compensating our employees and treating them as well as we possibly can.”

He said there is a “practical element here” which is “compensation is a big part of why someone would join an organization and a school district.”

For Mr. DiNunzio, there was not a lot of appetite in this community for cutting programs.

“The analysis showed that we are already running an efficient operation,” he continued.  “The options above bringing more revenue in is going to require cutting staff – and that means cutting programs.  And we saw in all of these meetings, no appetite for that.”

He said that “this gap is a parcel tax.”

—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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52 Comments

  1. Bill Marshall

    DJUSD has, in my opinion, shot themselves in the foot, big time…

    Permanency, based on parcels… in my view, it should be on DU… ironically, students in MF units will get to vote to impose it… effectively, representation w/o taxation… a complex, with say 198 units, could cast ~ 400 votes, and pay $0.50 more each year. (per voter)

    In effect the exemptions are equally troubling, for similar reasons…

    The language presented,

    To attract and retain quality teachers and staff by keeping compensation competitive, in order to preserve outstanding instruction in math, science, reading, writing, and technology; support athletics, arts and music; limit class sizes; and support student health and safety

    is egregious, in my opinion… particularly the “health and safety” thing.

    Deceptive.  Manipulative.

    Given that, I’ll vote NO.  If it passes, we’ll likely take an exemption.

    If the ‘goal’ and purpose was honest and straightforward, I was inclined to vote YES… $200/yr is de minimus. But I abhor deception.  Call it “sending a message”.  I cringe to think how an organization of education is presenting an “education” of what the funds will be used for, and results…

    Just saying…

     

      1. Bill Marshall

        Dwelling Unit = DU

        Sorry, jargon that I’m familiar with… a house, an apartment unit… on average, all have about same people/unit…

        Single family or multi-family…

        And, there are no good arguments for exemptions, in my opinion…

        1. Bill Marshall

          And, there are no good arguments for exemptions, in my opinion…

          Except an argument DJUSD might have closeted… folk could vote for a tax, “for the kids”, with no ‘skin in the game’ as to assessments… representation w/o taxation… a political “freebee”… the exemptions were not to ‘preserve’ anyone in the exempted classes… it was/is a way to get an affirmative vote from those it would not affect… a tad dishonest, in my view…

          If it was based on DU’s, no exemptions, no deceptions as to impacts, I’d vote in favor in a heartbeat… but, as it stands, it is what it is…

          This also gets to the ‘student vote’…  in 2020, folk can vote for a “permanent tax”, imposed on all, when they may well not be around for more than 4-5 year… the argument that there will be future students, and in 2020 they are voting on their behalf, is specious.

        2. Alan Miller

          This also gets to the ‘student vote’…  in 2020, folk can vote for a “permanent tax”, imposed on all, when they may well not be around for more than 4-5 year… the argument that there will be future students, and in 2020 they are voting on their behalf, is specious.

          Hmmmm . . . why do you find it specious?  I don’t . . . essentially, current students are voting for the values of future students.  The problem students have is that, even if they are represented . . . and I’ve always been in favor of on-campus students being able to vote in Davis . . . is that students just don’t vote in large numbers, and even those that do are more likely to be registered in the towns they came from as they are to be in Davis.  So really, I say give them the rights, but activist students are going to have a real chore getting any real high percentage of students to vote.

        3. Bill Marshall

          Re:  can’t do by DU… from enterprise article:

          Granda had argued that the dual rate structure written into Measure E, a four-year school parcel tax approved by voters last November, violated state law. The measure would have charged single-family homes $204 per year and multi-unit dwellings (apartments, condos, etc.) $20 per unit.

          Does not get to the legality of charging by DU.  Gets only to the dual rate structure

          If anyone can demonstrate DJUSD can’t do it by DU, at same rate for all DU’s, please consider providing the cite.

        4. Ron Glick

          Problem is the district is prohibited from taxing by the dwelling unit  and can only do so by parcel. So its simply not realistic to demand something that is not possible.

        5. Ron Glick

          “How about by size of a parcel? With larger parcels paying more than smaller parcels?”

          How about we reinvent the wheel. No system is perfectly fair but that alone is not a reason to reject what is on the table.

        6. Ron Oertel

          Thanks, but not actually a response.  If I’m not mistaken, the survey that the school district conducted examined this possibility, but they didn’t “like” the results. Which might go to whether or not they strive for more fairness, vs. a more simple (and hoped-for) “win”.

    1. Alan Miller

      To attract and retain quality teachers and staff by keeping compensation competitive, in order to preserve outstanding instruction in math, science, reading, writing, and technology; support athletics, arts and music; limit class sizes; and support student health and safety

      is egregious, in my opinion… particularly the “health and safety” thing.

      If only their consultants didn’t tell them to using this language is what gets votes (becuase it goes).  Because we are a nation of stupid people.  And scared that the children will get a poor education.  Children, Puppies, Love, Unicorns, Old People & Daisies. Children, Puppies, Love, Unicorns, Old People & Daisies. Children, Puppies, Love, Unicorns, Old People & Daisies. Children, Puppies, Love, Unicorns, Old People & Daisies. Strange, I feel like voting myself a tax increase. Children, Puppies, Love, Unicorns, Old People & Daisies.

  2. Ron Oertel

    Since the purpose of this is to provide a raise for teachers, it might be more straightforward to simply state that.  It sure is an odd situation, to ask voters for a “raise”.  Wondering how common this is, across California.

    Since a raise is requested, shouldn’t the level of current salaries and benefits be disclosed (e.g., on an “average” basis), along with the amount of work required per year?  (Given holidays, summer/winter breaks, etc.)  This might provide a more valid comparison point with other jobs – which are (also) vital to a functioning society. And, if one wants to focus on the “gap” instead, perhaps the gap in working conditions and in job instability (at poorly-functioning school districts) should be compared.

    Despite what I’ve written on here – today, and in the past, I’m not necessarily/personally opposed to a raise.  My singular concern is that this will ultimately impact the ability of the city to fund its own needs, given possible voter fatigue regarding parcel taxes.

      1. Ron Oertel

        The language cited in the article above contains a lot of other nonsense, as is often the case regarding such appeals (e.g., “it’s for the kids”).  Let’s be honest – it’s for the teachers.  (Nothing “wrong” with that.)

        Again, it seems odd to ask voters to make such decisions.  But if they’re going to do so, then it might even strengthen their argument to disclose basic information, such as how much they currently make in salaries and benefits, retirement, number of hours they work per day/week/month/year, etc.

        Still wondering if this is a common occurrence across California (to directly ask voters for a “raise”).

        1. Ron Oertel

          The situation kind of reminds me of those who completely ignore lease rate comparisons (e.g., between different/nearby communities), when examining why companies leave.

          With absolutely no discussion regarding what the lease rates actually are, in either of the communities.

          Interestingly enough, both situations sometimes cite “doomsday scenarios” for the communities that don’t simply go along with the political arguments – and instead ask actual, relevant (but perhaps “unpopular”) questions.

        2. Ron Oertel

          Don:  Thanks, and I might look at this later.  But I doubt that individual voters are going to look this stuff up on their own – nor is it their responsibility to do so, when asked for a “raise”. (Such a weird situation, as this normally occurs between management and staff. Possibly involving state legislatures, as well.)

          Maybe they’ll simply buy into the “it’s for the kids” – type argument, if the school district doesn’t want to present the information in a straightforward and direct manner to voters (e.g., regarding salary and benefits, retirement, number of work hours required, etc).  It’s worked in the past, I guess.

        3. Ron Oertel

          Holy cow – I just briefly looked at the first link/page that Don provided, and it certainly appears that some are very-well compensated. Honestly – much more than I expected. But again, I’d suggest that it’s the school district’s responsibility to summarize and distribute such information (in an accurate and unbiased manner), since they’re requesting a raise from a population that is not intimately familiar with the details, as management would be).

          1. David Greenwald

            The data which we have presented in numerous articles is that at the upper end of the scale, DJUSD closes the gap (but it’s still there) and the gap widens on the bottom end.

          2. Don Shor

            For those listed just as teachers (no additional job description) there are 476 positions. Obviously a lot of those on the bottom of the scale must be part-time. But while the pay scale ranges up to about $87K for teachers, the average of the 476 positions is $64K.
            Anyone in the district reading this who wants to email me current data and better info about starting wages, step increases, etc., is free to do so at donshor@gmail.com, and I can update this.

            Data here with names removed: http://davismerchants.org/vanguard/DJUSD%20salaries%202017.pdf

        4. David Greenwald

          Depends on how you view it – I believe a school district that is not competitive compensation wise is going to have less good teachers and thus negatively impact my kids. I was frankly appalled by how poorly we compensate young teachers.

        5. Ron Oertel

          David: “Depends on how you view it – I believe a school district that is not competitive compensation wise is going to have less good teachers and thus negatively impact my kids.”

          Both “good” teachers and “bad” teachers are attracted to higher compensation and better working conditions.  (Depends upon their individual situations, as well.)

          Given a choice, I suspect that few will be attracted to Sacramento’s school district:

          “Sacramento City Unified school budget rejected again.  Immediate Cuts Recommended.”

          https://www.sacbee.com/news/local/education/article235063407.html

          If there’s truly a problem in retaining teachers, it would be demonstrated by a significant number of positions that remain vacant for some period of time.

        6. Ron Oertel

          Not to be crass, but I wonder if some of these Sacramento teachers are still looking for a job:

          “The official budget report was submitted to the Sacramento County Office of Education in June, and the district’s contracted budget consultant, Jacquie Canfield, said it will be rejected despite the recent cuts the district made in the spring. Those cuts included approving more than 100 layoffs.

          https://www.sacbee.com/news/local/education/article235063407.html

          Examples like this are a primary reason that political arguments (based upon nonsense) don’t always work. Again, not a comment regarding whether or not they “deserve” a raise, but directly asking voters to make a determination regarding that (via a parcel tax) is pretty strange.

        7. Ron Oertel

          Hiram:  According to the article you posted:

          The district, which employs about 1,800 teachers, says that the school district is nearly fully staffed at 98 percent.

          But the teachers union said the number of vacancies is much higher, because the official district numbers don’t include vacancies that haven’t been posted. Documents obtained by The Sacramento Bee show a total of eight vacancies at McClatchy High.”

          In any case, Davis enrollments are declining, leading to the situation in which the Davis school district is “poaching” students from other districts.

          Truth be told, any entity which represents a group of employees is primarily concerned with the interests of those employees, even if they put forth political arguments which obscure this fact.

          This time, the (actual) issue concerns possible salary increases for teachers.

        8. Ron Oertel

          However, I just looked up the term “poaching”, and would have to acknowledge that the word is not a perfect fit for the situation, since there’s nothing illegal about what the school district is doing regarding enrollments of students from other districts.

    1. Hiram Jackson

      “Since the purpose of this is to provide a raise for teachers, it might be more straightforward to simply state that.  It sure is an odd situation, to ask voters for a “raise”.  Wondering how common this is, across California.”

      Until about 1978, local schools were funded mostly by local taxes.  If a district wanted to raise money beyond the current level, including for staff raises, then there were ‘tax override’ votes.  That ended from a combination of Prop. 13 and multiple Serrano v. Priest court decisions.  After that, most money for local schools came from the State.  That’s context; it doesn’t directly answer your question except that it’s not as common now as it used to be ~40+ years ago.

  3. Ron Glick

    “If there’s truly a problem in retaining teachers, it would be demonstrated by a significant number of positions that remain vacant for some period of time.”

    Its a good point and worth asking the district. Its anecdotal but I have seen more unfilled positions at the beginning of school over the last few years especially in hard to fill areas. I don’t think the district likes to talk about it because its bad for the DJUSD brand. When I first came to Davis in the 90’s DJUSD always had every position filled on the first day. When my kid was in the 6th grade a few years ago there was a position that went the entire year without a teacher with the appropriate credential and her school had to reorganize the entire 6th grade program to make it work.

    Another thing to look at is how many skilled people have left or as they say were not retained. I know several that went to Sac City or Elk Grove. One in particular ran a great program where the kids built bicycles from scratch. He lives in Davis but left DJUSD for Elk Grove because the compensation was so much better there he felt it was worth the commute.

    There is a phrase that you often hear in noncompetitive districts, they are often called training districts because people often stay a few years and move on to places with better pay.. Davis has gone from being a destination district to a training district.

    1. Ron Oertel

      “Its a good point and worth asking the district.”

      Thanks.

      “I know several that went to Sac City or Elk Grove.”

      Did you miss the following citation, repeated from above (regarding the Sacramento school district)?

      “Those cuts included approving more than 100 layoffs.”

      Overall, I have no problems with teachers pursuing jobs in districts that are still growing.  In fact, that’s where they are actually needed. (Hell, take an innovation center or two, with them. They’ve already got the sprawling housing developments needed to support them.) 😉

      1. Ron Glick

        Sac City has its own problems but don’t hold your breath thinking the people laid off there are going to be clamoring to come to Davis. They likely will have better financial options in places that are growing and have a stronger commercial tax base like Elk Grove, Roseville or Folsom.

        There is a shortage of teachers statewide, one upside down district nearby isn’t an overall solution to our local problem of being non-competitive financially.

        1. Ron Oertel

          As I noted elsewhere on this page, I don’t see the concern regarding teachers pursuing options where they’re actually still needed. That’s how all labor markets work.

          Regarding a possible statewide shortage, I’ve seen no evidence in this article.  Perhaps it’s true.  If so, then that would be a state issue – especially since they distribute the bulk of the funds.

          Ultimately, I see some disconnect between the “users” of the system, vs. those who pay for it.  Perhaps this is part of the reason that it (might) be under-funded, statewide.  (I could go on about this subject, but this might not be the best time/place to do so.)

          1. Don Shor

            Regarding a possible statewide shortage, I’ve seen no evidence in this article. Perhaps it’s true. If so, then that would be a state issue – especially since they distribute the bulk of the funds.

            The state doesn’t hire or pay teachers or really control what is done with the funds. In fact, greater control over the funding has been given to the districts in recent years.
            It isn’t a great plan to be hiring teachers, training them, getting them certified in specialties, and then watching them move on to other districts. Just as one example, the goal at the time the school board eviscerated GATE was to have all teachers certified for differential instruction. I doubt they’ve even come close to that goal. But keeping the certified teachers around would certainly be better for the gifted students in the district than having those teachers heading off for better pay elsewhere. I’m sure the same principle applies for other specialized training.
            There are advantages to teacher retention, but you have to be willing to pay for it. I suspect people who have children in the district, or who appreciate having good schools in their community, will understand that and hopefully will vote for it. But any school district with increasing demographics away from families with school-age children begins to face this issue, when voters who have no particular stake in the quality of the school begin to vote just their narrow self-interest instead of seeing the benefits to the community.
            I think this is going to be a hard sell, because there are more and more people without schoolchildren living in Davis, proportionally, than there used to be.

        2. Ron Oertel

           ” . . . begin to vote just their narrow self-interest instead of seeing the benefits to the community.”

          In a nutshell, this is exactly how I see school districts themselves, at times. To some degree, I see it here, since there doesn’t seem to be much concern regarding the probable impact to the the city’s fiscal challenges – ultimately chasing the same dollars.

        3. Rik Keller

          Don said “I think this is going to be a hard sell, because there are more and more people without schoolchildren living in Davis, proportionally, than there used to be.”

          Yes, this is another direct results of UC Davis not providing adequate housing for its own students as enrollment has skyrocketed, and with UC Davis students competing with and displacing families for housing in the city. It’s also a result of new  housing being built catering to a wealthy, older population.

          The latest large housing projects catering to these two groups (Nishi for wealthy students and WDAAC for wealthy seniors) are emblematic of the problem.

          1. Don Shor

            Nishi helps solve the problem. So does the agreement the city made with UCD. Just a matter now of getting Nishi built and keeping UCD to their commitments.

        4. Bill Marshall

          Don…

          It will be a harder sell if the district is not straight-forward with the purpose, and uses what amounts to hyperbole in their “sales pitch”…

          Just saying…

          If they said it is for ” fairly compensating top-tier teachers to attract and retain them”, it would (in my opinion, at least), be more honest and more convincing.

          The language proposed (reflected in the article) is a bit ‘off-putting’… possibility of a self-inflicted wound.

        5. Rik Keller

          Don: Nishi is a student-only housing project that displaces any chance of workforce/family housing being built on that site. It’s is emblematic of the problem.

        6. Mark West

          “It’s is emblematic of the problem.”

          The problem was the community’s failure to build sufficient housing in town to meet the expanding need. Blaming the University or the students for our failure is just a lame excuse.

        7. Craig Ross

          Rik Keller may or may not be an expert, but he clearly lacks common sense.  We have a dire shortage of student housing, his response – we need workforce housing, not student housing.  Why?  Who knows.  Nevermind that he and others killed the first Nishi that would have had both student and workforce housing – maybe it’s time to stop killing projects because you don’t get it perfect the first time.

        8. Craig Ross

          “The latest large housing projects catering to these two groups (Nishi for wealthy students and WDAAC for wealthy seniors) are emblematic of the problem.”

          Brother.  The real problem are the people who kill reasonable housing projects and then whine when they get something even worse because the problems have escalated.

        9. Rik Keller

          Mark West: anyone who can’t see the failure of UCD to adequately provide for its fair share of student housing while it dramatically increased enrollment rates is just intent on keeping their head in the sand.

          Along with declining family/workforce housing opportunities as this massive increase  in demand squeezed them out, it is also a negative for economic development and local retail economic health. UCD student have local retail spending rates at just 20% per capita compared to non-student households

           

  4. Ron Glick

    “Maybe they’ll simply buy into the “it’s for the kids” – type argument, if the school district doesn’t want to present the information in a straightforward and direct manner to voters (e.g., regarding salary and benefits, retirement, number of work hours required, etc).”

    The district regularly has budget presentations at school board meeting where the budget is presented to the school board in a public, open and transparent manner. You can find the presentations in the meeting video archives at DJUSD.

    1. Ron Oertel

      Yeah, I’m sure that the majority of voters will look into that.  😉

      Again, I’d suggest that it’s the school district’s responsibility to put forth summaries regarding the reasons that teachers are “underpaid” (during a public campaign), e.g., compared to other professions. (And, the reasons that this outweighs the needs of the city, since support for parcel tax increases are not “unlimited”.)

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