On Tuesday, May 3rd the voters in the Davis Joint Unified School District (DJUSD) will have the choice of approving or rejecting Measure A as a special parcel tax measure on the ballot to authorize an additional parcel tax of $200 per single parcel and $20. per unit in multi-unit parcels per year for a term of two (2) years commencing in the 2011-2012 tax year in the historic first special all mail ballot election to be held locally on that date.
First, of all taxation in all forms from income, property to sales taxes (as the well known types) are the involuntary collection of revenues by governmental entities to fund programs and services as opposed to voluntary contribution programs to do so and can negatively impact taxpayers if rates of taxation become excessively high and especially low income (and in some cases middle income) taxpayers don't qualify for exemptions and reductions can be penalized for their inability to pay. The proposal of Measure A is such example of such a form of involuntary revenue collection as opposed to a voluntary contribution program.
Described below are the problems associated with Measure Aís provisions that contribute to undermining the affordability of many low and middle income taxpayers to pay the overall rate of property taxation that it seeks to increase as tax assessments are legally mandatory with required payment, by non-exempt property owners (as they are not voluntary contributions for government sponsored services):
EXCESSIVE USE OF SPECIAL TAXATION BALLOT MEASURE PROCESS AND THE ESCALATION OF OVERALL SPECIAL TAX RATES:
The Davis School Board in addition to the governing bodies of many other local government entities have placed an inordinate number of special tax measures on the ballot in recent elections that have passed are in effect and have exacerbated the problem of over taxation facing taxpayers i.e . City of Davis: Measure P: Sales Tax Increase in 2004 (renewed in 2010) and Measure O: The Open Space Preservation Tax in 2000, Davis School District Measure Q: Special Tax Assessment in 2007, Davis Library District Measure P: Special Tax in 2007 and Measure K: Building Modernization Bond in 2000 and Los Rios Community College District: Measure A: General Facilities Bond in 2002. The passage of all these special tax ballot measures has been an accumulation of an additional amount of property tax of $387. per parcel per year from all these voter approved tax assessments alone causing the total rate of such taxes to escalate exponentially to higher overall rates on local tax bills. These eight (8) special tax ballot measures have amounted to an additional average property tax rate of $1,188. per parcel per year up from approximately $673.32 to an additional 57% since 1998 when there were just five (5) special property tax assessments within the Davis City limits, and there soon could be nine (9) if Measure A passes.
Also, many local property tax rates have risen over time as extension ballot measures are approved by voters: For example, Measure Q which passed on Tuesday, November 6, 2007 imposed a rate of $200 per parcel which is four (4) times larger than its original predecessor Measure K which was passed by voters on Tuesday, June 5, 1984 which provided for an assessment of only $45. per year per parcel.
UNFAIR TAX STRUCTURE:
Measure A provides for no exemption for low income property owners that are under 65 years of age whatsoever as it is only an "age based" exemption only, not even a partial or a full exemption or even a refund program as also applies to Measures Q, W and the Community Facilities District (CFD) # 1 are available due to unforeseen personal income related circumstances. However, the School Board had the option of including an exemption from this special tax and Measures Q and W for Social Security Income (SSI) Disability Recipients but did not include that exemption option for those property owners in Measure A as allowed by California State Government Code Section 50079 in the text of these three (3) ballot measures.
Measure A's provisions provide for no vacancy exemption as is not currently allowed by state law for unoccupied single household residential units and units in multi-unit apartment complexes. So, if there is a rise in the future in the vacancy rate among multi-unit residential dwellings locally, landlords could lose additional paid rent in the form of if being diverted as payment for assessed taxation being applied to rental units that are absent receiving an income from non-paid rent.
CHANGING DEMOGRAPHICS AND ENROLLMENT DECREASES DON'T JUSTIFY RAISING THE LOCAL OVERALL TAX RATES:
The population of likely property owners that are 65 years or older residing in the Davis School District has been increasing according to census population statistics up from 6% to 7%, since the 2000 census according to the recent 2009 estimate. As an increasing number of "middle aged" and "middle class" property owners are facing a cost prohibitive situation of owning residential property are no longer residing in the Davis School District, due to an ever increasing property tax burden, rising utility rates and stringent growth control policies, the situation will have the eventual effect of leaving the 65 and over age group as the major age group of property owners in the district as that age group is eligible for property tax exemptions from Measures Q, W and Community Facilities District (CFD) # 1 and Measure A (if it passes). This situation exacerbates a decreased rate of student enrollment in the district as the proportion of Davis's population that is under 18 years (elementary and secondary school age) is being suppressed to a current 17% which is a lower proportion in comparison to the national and state averages of 26% to 27% and even those of neighboring cities of Woodland and Dixon of 27% and 31% in which the under 18 age group is significantly larger. This situation contributes to a decrease in the rates of enrollment in the Davis School District year by year and justifies the defeat of Measure A as the local property tax burden shouldn't increase to provide additional funding for these instructional services as district student enrollment rates have been decreasing from 8,863 to 8,833 students between the 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 school years and that the districts programs primarily serve this age group only and not the entire district's population.
Measure A clearly is an example of an attempt to excessively tax the taxpayers of the district as the combined rate would (if it passes) along with Measures Q and W would raise the rate to $520. per year from $320. A combined 62% increase of three (3) special taxes just to support instructional programs in the district. A higher combined rate charged by any school district in California exceeding the $475. per year special tax rate charged by the Ross Valley School District in Marin County, which is currently the highest such special parcel property rate in the state for such a purpose. In addition the $200 per year rate proposed by Measure A is identical to Measure Q the highest special tax rate ever imposed locally for this purpose.
QUESTIONABLE ELECTION DATE SCHEDULING TACTICS:
The Davis School Board could have scheduled the placement of Measure A on the recent Tuesday, November 2, 2010 General Election Ballot instead of calling a "stand alone" one ballot measure (issue) special election. But apparently since this was the election date for the Davis School Board Membership the incumbent Davis School Board Members apparently wanted to schedule this election on another date to maximize their re-election prospects to the contrary if Measure A should become unpopular with the voters and not pass. Furthermore, since "stand alone" one ballot measure special elections usually have a lower voter turnout that multi-issue regularly scheduled ballot measure elections, such a situation would likely maximize the proportion of special interest voters turning out as well and vote favorably to pass Measure A and therefore Measure A's passage. Certainly, manipulative political maneuvers were involved in the scheduling of this election to enhance the chances of Measure A passage.
Also, of concern is that approximately $130,746 of taxpayer provided funding will be spent to conduct this election at a rate of $3. per voter among the 43,582 registered voters in the Davis School District according to the rough estimate provided by the Yolo County Elections Office. Certainly a waste of taxpayers money by the school district as opposed to scheduling the vote on Measure A for the ballot of of a regularly scheduled election which could have been less expensive to the cost of taxpayer funding.
Of course, the use of "stand alone" special elections to seek the passage of ballot measures that waste the voters time and money is not a new concept that has been sought by the Davis School District and other local government entities: Previously, on Tuesday, May 23, 2000 a "single (one) subject" special election was held in the Davis School District on another Measure titled as Measure A that sought passage of a bond measure to provide This ballot measure could have been placed on the previous Tuesday, March 7, 2000 Primary Election Ballot less than three (3) months earlier to have been voted on then with a substantial savings of taxpayer provided funding. Also, other "stand alone" elections that have wasted taxpayer provided funding and the voters time locally are an example such as the Tuesday, March 4, 1997 ballot measure of Measure E: the City of Davis Richards Boulevard Underpass Expansion Ordinance repeal or the Tuesday, June 5, 2001 regarding Measure S, a proposal to replace the then City of Davis Municipal Services Tax at the time with a Municipal Services Tax with a higher rate. Unfortunately, another local government entity i.e. the City of Davis has engaged in such tactics as conducting special "single (one) subject" elections as well that was taxpayers and voters time and money as these two (2) ballot measures could have been placed on the ballot earlier in the preceding years general elections as well.
UNDERMINES DAVIS SLOW GROWTH DEVELOPMENT POLICIES:
In recent years Davis voters have made decisions regarding two development related ballot measures by the passage of Measure J on Tuesday, March 7, 2000 (renewed as Measure R on Tuesday, June 8, 2010) : The public vote requirement on each general plan amendment requirement for new development projects and the defeat of Measure X The Covell Village Development Proposal on Tuesday, November 8, 2005. In general property tax assessments are a land development inducting form of taxation in that such collection of additional tax revenue from such tax schemes are depended on the development of new parcels. Therefore, the local development authorities such as the Davis City Council and Yolo County Board of Supervisors have an incentive to approve such new developments to create a new addition to the local property tax base even for the benefit other government entities as well. In general, the ballot measure property tax proposal scheme used to expand the local tax base has been at odds to the predominant voter sentiment supportive of the policy of slow growth in Davis. Therefore, the passage of Measure A would just contribute to the incentive to approve new developments by use of a taxing scheme by these local government entities as a revenue source contrary to the development policy of "slow growth".
THE PASSAGE OF MEASURE A WOULD LIKELY ENCOURAGE THE PLACEMENT OF FUTURE SPECIAL TAX BALLOT MEASURES ON THE BALLOT IN FUTURE ELECTIONS:
Over a period of the the Davis School District has placed numerous ballot measures on the ballot for higher and higher additional rates of property taxation in addition to bond measures. The passage of Measure W on Tuesday, November 4, 2008 as supplemental ballot measure for an additional $120 per year in addition to the passage Measure Q the sixth (6th) successor special tax measure to the original Measure K for a rate of $200 per year to fund instructional programs has just encouraged the Davis School Board in addition to many other local governmental entities to place an inordinate number of ballot measures on the ballot from election to election constantly seeking higher overall tax rates. Therefore, the defeat of Measure A would send the essential message that local voters will not continue to tolerate such an abuse of this tax raising procedure and considering the fact that higher tax rates are already having a negative economic effect regarding the cost of living in the community to discourage such actions by the Davis School Board an other local governmental entities from continue doing so likewise.
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