November 9, 2010

All parcel taxes for schools fail in Santa Clara County; bonds pass

All parcel taxes for schools fail in Santa Clara County; bonds pass

By Sharon Noguchi

snoguchi@mercurynews.com

Posted: 11/05/2010 07:00:00 PM PDT

Updated: 11/05/2010 10:28:12 PM PDT

When it comes to school taxes, Santa Clara County voters in the past have marched to their own education-boosting drummer, usually amassing the 66.7 percent supermajority required to tax themselves extra for schools.

School leaders counted on the same reception to their pleas this year, hoping voters would approve taxes to help avert drastic cuts to classrooms and libraries and increases in class sizes.

But this week, all three school parcel taxes in tax-friendly Santa Clara County failed, although four bond measures passed. Only two of 18 school parcel taxes statewide passed, among them Fremont Unified School District in next-door Alameda County, which received 69.5 percent of the vote for its first-ever parcel tax.

To obtain approval, Fremont campaigners focused on pounding home their message: Because of recession-induced state budget cuts, the district needed dollars for basics such as reading, math, science and libraries, which last school year were cut 50 percent. They stressed that the district had been a responsible steward of public funds. Not only are test scores rising, but also all the projects promised for a 2002 bond measure were completed on time and under budget.

By contrast, Santa Clara County voters mirrored statewide trends: California voters this week approved 70 percent of school bonds but rejected 89 percent of school parcel taxes. The record was similar in San Mateo County, where the lone parcel tax failed but four school bonds passed.

It’s pretty obvious why this happened – it’s unfair to landlords, other businesses, and retirees who don’t have children that they should be paying for schools. If kids want better schools, their parents should pay out of pocket directly – just like they do in Cupertino and Palo Alto.

Congrats to the Bay Area for finally reaching fiscal sanity. The next step is to divert money from schools into rebating property taxes. After all, what do you get from spending money on kids? Not much. But what about reducing property taxes? Now that’s a smart ROI!

Comments (16) -- Posted by: burbed @ 5:50 am

16 Responses to “All parcel taxes for schools fail in Santa Clara County; bonds pass”

  1. CB Says:

    Fremont passed two school related parcel taxes. One for K-12 and the other for improvements to Ohlone community college. This was the first time I voted for a parcel tax increase.

  2. madhaus Says:

    Speaking of Cupertino and Palo Alto, the parcel tax for Foothill-DeAnza Community College District failed. That area is essentially the Palo Alto Unified and Fremont Union High (Cupertino and Sunnyvale) school districts with Los Altos and Mountain View thrown in. Obviously everyone in Mountain View voted against it, because there’s no way a school tax could fail in the other 3 districts.

    The measure got 57% of the vote; enough to pass a bond but not a parcel tax.

  3. nomadic Says:

    But madhaus, only deadwood goes to community college. Why would people in Palo Alto vote to give money to that?
    ;-)

  4. nomadic Says:

    Is it just me, or is this article jumbled?

    …among them Fremont Unified School District in next-door Alameda County, which received 69.5 percent of the vote for its first-ever parcel tax.

    Is there a FUSD in Alameda too?

  5. CB Says:

    #4 It makes sense to me, Fremont is in Alameda county. Is this not Fremont’s first parcel tax?

  6. madhaus Says:

    Fremont Unified School District is in Alameda County. Fremont Union High School District is in Santa Clara County. A unified district is K-12. A union district is an amalgamation of two or more smaller districts.

    I agree it was a bad idea to name the high school district for John Fremont, given that there’s a city named for him just 10 miles away. But it’s possible that Fremont Union named themselves before the city of Fremont formed itself from five smaller cities.

    Then again, maybe FUHSD did this as way to screen out those too lazy to figure out the difference.

  7. nomadic Says:

    Then again, maybe FUHSD did this as way to screen out those too lazy to figure out the difference.

    Oh yeah? Well FUHSD to you!

  8. Mike Says:

    Alameda, CA passed 2 parcel taxes in the past, but rejected a third one this year.
    Bond measures can not be used to increase teacher salaries.
    Parcel taxes are used primarily for teacher raises and increased retirements.
    At an average salary of $70,430. Per NEA, Ca. teachers are well paid. Voters do not see any reason to increase salaries, when their own salaries have been cut.

  9. madhaus Says:

    More than you ever wanted to know:

    The city of Fremont was incorporated in 1956 by the merger of 5 cities: Mission San Jose, Irvington, Centerville, Warm Springs, and Niles.

    The Fremont Unified School District has 5 attendance areas corresponding to its 5 high schools (no doubt taken from the 5 cities mentioned above). There was also a lot of “fun” over redrawing attendance area boundaries in 2000. And by fun I mean lawsuits, threatened and real.

    There is no history of the FUSD on either Wikipedia or its own website, so I can’t tell if FUHSD simply got there first, but it sure looks like it. FUHSD was established in 1925 when Fremont High School (in Sunnyvale) was renamed. Before then, the high school district was named West Side High School District. The FUHSD site has a fairly good history of the district and its high schools.

    So FUHSD to you too, #7.

  10. madhaus Says:

    #8: There is an election and there are school issues for different districts. Bonds must pass by 55%, and taxes must pass by 2/3 (66 2/3%). Let us suppose that most such measures garner about 60% yes votes. By the rules above, the bonds would pass and the taxes would fail.

    Question: If similar percentages of voters affirm both school bonds and school taxes, must that mean “Voters do not see any reason to increase salaries, when their own salaries have been cut”? Could there be some possible alternative explanation?

    How many voters are aware that there are different thresholds for the two funding mechanisms? How many voters know that bonds must be used for buildings and improvements, not salaries? And finally, did you know most school parcel taxes tend to fail in general elections, and often the only way to get them passed is in a special election?

    If I charge $5 for chocolate ice cream and $1 for vanilla ice cream, does my selling 100 vanilla and 3 chocolate show that people in Sunnyvale overwhelmingly reject chocolate?

    How many measures can you find on any topic that passed with a yes vote over 2/3?

    Do you want me to start ranting about Prop 13 again? :)

  11. nomadic Says:

    Interesting questions, madhaus. Nice.

    In general, I’d guess people would be more likely to favor bonds over direct taxes anyway. I doubt most people give a lot of thought to where the principal and interest to pay back those bonds is supposed to come from. (California in particular has a fine history of kicking the can down to the next generation.) It’s almost “free money.” Or at least OPM in the short run.

  12. SEA Says:

    All I have to say is that it’s a good thing for those teachers that income doesn’t matter when one goes to buy a home.

  13. DreamT Says:

    of course the income does not matter. only the outcome does.

  14. A. Lewis Says:

    Contra Costa County also had the 60% yes on taxes – meaning a bond passed and a parcel tax failed. #8 is only knowledgeable about what #8 thinks, not anyone else – nice take-down Madhaus – in fact, I’m going to give you a 3-point near-fall. Go for the pin!

    Hmmm – do you think all these parcel taxes being begged for but failing should influence housing prices to go up or down?

  15. DreamT Says:

    To Mike’s defense, most mainstream journalists would have been just as peremptory: “Voters do not see any reason”.
    I just realized that also applies to Real Estater. You are what you choose to watch/read.

  16. SEA Says:

    A. Lewis- Your question reminds me of the right “space rent” to maximize value.


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