This is a prediction based on speculation. We have been covering parcel taxes since 2007. Over that time we have seen parcel taxes pass with the following percentages: 73, 75.7, 67.2, 69, and 71.9.
That is remarkable consistency. It means that only twice has opposition reached even 30 percent of the electorate.
Now some of my conservative friends would argue about how long the Davis voters will continue to vote for tax increases. That is a fair question. It is one that I ask as well. In fact, I am mindful of it as we go forward.
But perhaps it is a question that is falsely rooted. There are limits in Davis to how far the voters are willing to go. We saw that in 2018 when they voted down a parcel tax for roads. But roads and schools are two immensely different things in a place like Davis, which proudly backs its schools.
We are talking about a community that voted only about 15 percent for Trump in 2016, so perhaps the answer is that Davis voters are likely to back parcel taxes for schools in perpetuity.
Still when we looked at the polling on this particular parcel tax it was about 65 percent support – below the 2/3rd threshold. And that was an optimistic number, as it included not only supporters but leaners.
With all of that said, as we read the campaign environment, we don’t see much in the way of opposition. The ballot opposition was nominal to begin with. We don’t see evidence of an actual opposition campaign and we don’t see any evidence of any sort of organized opposition.
If you look at the five previous parcel taxes over the last 14 years, you will note that the closest was the 2011 parcel tax – Measure A, which narrowly passed with just 67.2 percent of the vote. The problems in that election did not merely sneak up on us as there were signs of trouble – controversy, Bob Dunning columns, heavy public criticism of campaign tactics. We see none of that here.
What we see instead in this environment is nary a murmur of protest.
We saw the op-ed by Gregg Cook and now one letter of opposition.
The letter this week objects: “We who live in Davis are again being asked to raise our taxes for our schools. This time, for salaries, specifically. I am beyond tired of our education board, our teachers union and the measure authors for ‘banking’ on our deep support for education and our youth to be quilted in subsidizing a school system that does not want to be accountable or honest with its citizens.”
He argues: “Do our teachers make less than teachers in Woodland, Dixon, elsewhere in our ‘region’? Is our school board that frugal, that fiscally tight that we don’t deserve to see exactly how our district manages and expends funds, and in comparison not only to other districts but to communities with similar demographics to our community?”
(It’s too bad Kevin Shaffer, the letter writer, didn’t attempt the subcommittee meetings last year or he would have seen all of these numbers).
But those protests are dwarfed by an overwhelming number of letters in support.
We have not done a hard count, but we do note another six letters of support.
From a high school teacher: “I joined the DJUSD community this year as a science teacher at DSHS to be closer to my family. I also took a $16,000 yearly pay cut to do so. It’s incredible that schools a mere 30 minutes apart offer such vastly different compensation packages. If Measure G does not pass, I fear this gap will continue to grow.”
From a parent and former educator: “Since the Davis community has not demonstrated an appetite for increasing salaries by reducing educational offerings and programs, a modest parcel tax (of about 55 cents a day) seems a small price to bring teacher and school staff salaries in line with surrounding districts. It bears mentioning that parcel tax exemptions are offered for seniors, those on SSDI, etc.”
From a teacher: “Teachers in general are paid less than other professionals with similar education requirements, as a remnant of the sexist old idea that women’s work was a second income. Those days are gone, but teacher salaries are still lagging, especially in Davis: teachers here are paid less than in Woodland, Dixon, Winters, West Sac and Sacramento.”
Another teacher: “Teachers are grossly underpaid for the value they bring to our society. The state of California needs to re-examine priorities and fund education, including teacher salaries, at a much higher level.”
A community member: “I know a number of teachers that live in town but have ended up working at districts in our neighboring communities instead of Davis because of the pay difference. It is no wonder we’re having a tough time getting and keeping high quality credentialed teachers to work at our school district. Fast forward 5 years, when roughly a third of our teachers will retire, and the situation will be even worse.”
From Mariko Yamada, former State Assemblymember: “Great public schools and a vibrant progressive community brought our young family to Davis in 1994. Our kids were fortunate to grow up in a place that ‘paid it forward’ time and again by investing in education and vital city programs.”
While a lot of these letters are teachers, the important thing to look at is level of opposition. When the parcel tax nearly failed in 2011 there was huge controversy that was sustained. Even with that controversy the vote was still an overwhelming 67.2 to 32.8. With no such controversy this time, it is hard to imagine this one won’t pass. But stay tuned.
—David M. Greenwald reporting