My View: District Responds to Williams’ Critique – $1.3 Million Projection Is Sound

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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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. Ron Glick

    I think this article shows the depths the opposition to Measure B will sink to in order to defeat the proposal. Attacking DJUSD and accusing the school district of some sort of malfeasance for cheap political gain against Measure B runs the risk of tarnishing the reputation of the school district and its credibility with the voters.
    The sad part is that I doubt any voters will base their decision on Measure B’s impact on DJUSD.

  2. Don Shor

    This is the kind of political behavior that Davis residents should not tolerate. Nevertheless, I doubt the analysis and numbers will be retracted; in fact, I expect the claims will continue right up until election day.

  3. Alan Pryor

    Actually, Matt Williams analysis is spot on. The District’s response to Matt essentially said that 1989’s Measure A would expire as Matt stated except that they have additional language in other resolutions they interpret to mean,” 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”. What the….?

    So the District is saying that any time they want to have a new facilities-related project they want to fund they can just extend 1989’s Measure A beyond it’s sunset date and start charging taxes for it. But I thought the whole purpose of Measure M was that the 1989 Measure A CFD #1 was going to expire and they needed another $150 million for all these new facility upgrades they wanted to construct. If the Measure A CFD was never going to expire because they could extend it anytime they wanted, they why did they even bother to float another Measure M tax bond to the public.

    Any way you slice this loaf of bread, there is some serious double-speak going on with the District to the voters.

    And the simple fact is that Matt is right in his analysis -> If all 3 of the bonds do expire at their specified termination date, all the taxes collected under those bonds will stop and the $1.3 million annual tax proceeds claimed by Measure B proponents on project build-out will never materialize. That is pretty much cut and dried and there is really no spin anyone can put on that analysis.

    Now David is faulting Matt for seriously misleading the readers by not saying “Oh, but don’t worry, the voters will extend the 3 bonds because they always vote for everything the District asks them to.”

    But I would flip that coin over and say it the District’s and the Measure B proponents explicit obligation to simply state in their ballot language that the $1.3 Million projected revenue to the District is expressly predicated on the voters renewing all 3 existing bonds by at least a 2/3 majority vote. Now that would have been an honest disclosure and there would not have been any need for Matt to even write his letter. But the District and Measure B proponents did NOT add any language to that effect and this is a gross error of omission to otherwise assume that voters would somehow explicitly understand this. And this omission then is exactly what I called it, “Smoke and Mirrors“.

    The only question here is whether this omission is a simple oversight or whether it is a deliberate attempt to mislead voters into thinking that the $1.3 Million is a slam-dunk if they just vote for Measure B.

    Two of the most ardent and public supporters of Measure B are Davis City Council Member Dan Carson, who has ran on a platform of fiscal acumen and responsibility, and DJUSD Board President Joe DiNunzio, currently also Chair of the Davis Chamber of Commerce, an organization that has enthusiastically endorsed Measure B. Both are signers of the ballot statements for Measure B and both have recorded videos for the ballot Measure widely promoting the fiscal benefits of the DISC project.

    Both of these civic leaders have dozens of years of financial experience. It is just hard to believe that both of them and the entire City and School Board financial staffs and the financial consultant EPS could all overlook such an obvious financial impact that all of the bonds they are counting on for financial benefits to the School District will expire before the DISC project is even built out. Either they were being financially irresponsible and not doing their due diligence or they are intentionally misrepresenting the projected revenues to the School District to sway voters. Neither is reassuring

  4. Don Shor

    It is a bogus analysis, and now I see Alan is not only doubling down on it but emailing it out to all those on his email list.

    It’s false, Alan. It discredits you to be endorsing and amplifying a false analysis.

  5. Bill Marshall

    There are two issues that I see… one involves DISC/Measure B… the aruments, assertions, counter assertions, whatever…

    Then there is the assertion that DJUSD CFD#1 is, in effect, and open checkbook… I need to get my ‘ducks in a row’ on the latter, which I believe to be at best, misleading, and may be patently false, with much deception/dissembling, on the part of DJUSD.

    Matt provided documents… the district’s claims are more of “trust us, we know better than you”… I find that disconcerting… I sincerely hope that the successful candidates for the DJUSD Board, as one of their early priorities (not #1, but in top 5), drill deeply into the representations/allegations/facts of CFD #1… whether or not Measure B is approved…

    DJUSD has “some s’plaining to do!”

    So do the district’s ‘apologists’… some seem to believe “the District, right or wrong!” [after all, it’s for the kids!”]… without the full quote, that is along the lines, ‘if right, to keep it right… if wrong, to cure the wrong’…

    If CFD #1 is so flexible, why did we need the other School Bond measure?

    To me, the Measure B entwinement is not the most important thing…


    1. Bill Marshall

      Oh… and the new school bond measure truly a ‘blank check’ as the district implies CFD #1 is?  Was that disclosed prior to the vote?  Something rotten in Denmark… I expect any new trustees to address this… existing trustees will likely punt or have no comment… if they run for re-election in a district I can vote in, and they don’t get involved…  ‘logical consequences’…

      There seem to be those who support the blank check concept… after all, “it’s for the kids!”… whatever DJUSD says… tablets from a famous mountain…

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