By David M. Greenwald
On Friday, Matt Williams accused the school district and city of adding “funny money” to the Measure B argument. His core argument is that the ballot argument for Measure B which claimed it is “[g]enerating more than $1.3 million annually in new revenues for the Davis Joint Unified School District, to enhance educational opportunities for our kids, has overstated total DJUSD revenues by just under 100% (98%) and annual DJUSD revenues at buildout in year 25 are overstated more than twenty-fold.”
For good measure, Alan Pryor of the No on Measure B campaign chimed in, “Now we see that the proposed income to DJUSD is all smoke and mirrors.”
But it was obvious at the time that the claim by Matt Williams was heavily overstated and reliant on key revenues to the school district sunsetting—revenues like the Measure H parcel tax and the Measure M facilities bond in 2043.
By Friday evening, the school district sent a letter to Matt Williams clarifying the CFD#1 claims, which basically put in doubt the entire piece by Matt Williams.
Amari Watkins is the Associate Superintendent of Business Services, having taken over for long-time Associate Superintendent Bruce Colby. She explained that on October 5 she received the email from Matt Williams with “five very detailed questions” and noted, “At that time, I was not prepared to respond to your questions.”
However in pouring over the documents, she believes, “Our collective analysis differs from your interpretation of the select documents you received for CFD No. 1. Based on our review, CFD No. 1 is authorized to continue to impose special taxes for authorized projects regardless of the anticipated final debt service payment of existing CFD No. 1 bonds.”
Watkins further goes on: “Board approval of Resolution No. 31-89 initiated the establishment of CFD No. 1 and specified a proposed special tax program to fund the identified projects described in the resolution. Separately, the Board also adopted Resolution No. 32-89, describing a proposed bond program in the amount of $33.3 million to fund a portion of the specified projects.
“After adopting both resolutions, the Board called a special election of the voters within the boundaries of CFD No. 1. The ballot for the election sought voter approval of both the special tax within CFD No. 1 as well as voter approval of the proposed bonds, which passed with the required 66 2/3% voter approval.”
In short, those will continue, which basically falsifies a claim that “[t]here will only be one year of DJUSD revenues projected in the EPS Economic Analysis for CFD #1 rather than 25 years. As a result the total CFD #1 revenues are reduced from $4,256,000 to $68,000. The full buildout CFD #1 annual revenues are reduced from $252,000 to $0.”
The rest of Matt Williams’ piece is not addressed by the letter, but is equally problematic.
He writes, “Measure H revenues going to $0 in FY 2025-26 the year Measure H expires.” He argues, “There will only be four years of DJUSD revenues for Measure H rather than 25 years. As a result the total Parcel Tax revenues are reduced from $4,795,000 to $1,335,734. The full buildout Parcel Tax annual revenues are reduced from $260,000 to $59,194.”
What is simply remarkable here is that Matt Williams does not even hedge his comments. There “will only be four years” and the annual revenues “are reduced.”
It is not that this result can’t happen, it is that there are more likely outcomes and at no point does Matt Williams mention the possibility that Measure H will likely be placed on the ballot for renewal—and no discussion of the fact that, since 2007, the district has passed EVERY SINGLE PARCEL TAX by at least 67 percent of the vote, including the Measure G passed by 68 percent of the vote that extends in perpetuity.
This argument is simply misleading. It would be one thing to point out that DJUSD and the city are optimistically projecting continued voter support—but it is another thing to argue that this is somehow nefarious, misleading or playing with funny money.
For Alan Pryor to once again jump in and call this “smoke and mirrors” is simply irresponsible… again.
Where I think Matt Williams is on most solid ground is Measure M revenues. He points out that Measure M revenues go to zero in 2042-43. Again, he never suggests the possibility that Measure M could be extended. That is perhaps less certain than a Measure H extension, but a distinct possibility.
His claim: “There will only be 21 years of DJUSD Bond Debt revenues for Measure M rather than 25 years.”
That may end up being accurate, but it is also kind of “meh.”
None of this takes into account that over the last 13 years, parcel taxes have increased from $100 per parcel in 2007 to $940 or so in 2020. It also doesn’t take into account that the bond measure only covers one-third of the district’s capital repairs over the next 25 years and they will have to figure out a way to finance the rest—either with an additional bond measure or an extension.
Either way, the bottom line is that stating the Measure B ballot argument “has overstated total DJUSD revenues by just under 100% (98%)” is false and misleading—and based on a poor understanding of CFD No.1 and a misleading and overly pessimistic analysis of Measure H and perhaps Measure M.
Bottom line: $1.3 million seems like a reasonable projection for annual benefit to the schools. That doesn’t mean that it will end up there—it may end up higher and it could end up lower.
If the district does not pass a Measure H renewal, the $1.3 million loss will be the very least of their problems.
—David M. Greenwald reporting
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