The parcel tax election is over, and Measure A passed by less than one percentage point. During the campaign, I was asked several times why the Yolo County Taxpayers Association was not more vocal about a proposal to increase local taxes.
The answer is that YCTA took a neutral position on the final version of Measure A, but this does not mean that the association was not involved. Our reasons for not contesting Measure A were based on the school board’s response to YCTA recommendations and current school funding uncertainty.
The district’s original parcel tax proposal combined its existing parcel taxes (Measure Q for enhancement and temporary Measure W) plus an increase of $175 per parcel, extended the effective period of the combined taxes to four years, and removed most of the conditions on use of the money, which effectively would have locked this parcel tax into the district’s annual budget.
YCTA, along with other community members, strongly opposed this initial proposal, and it was grudgingly revised by the school board to a two year, stand-alone, emergency measure. The close election shows that this was a wise decision.
However, the final version of Measure A did not include requested language to reduce the emergency tax in proportion to new state funding. Because most of its recommendations had been adopted, YCTA did not oppose Measure A; but without adjusting the local tax in response to new state funds, the association could not support it either.
YCTA also was concerned about school funding uncertainty, based on school finance data available earlier this year. Without funds from either state taxes proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown or Measure A, the district would have faced making additional cuts in next year’s budget.
With only the proposed state tax funds, future district budgets would be similar to last year with possible short-term increases depending on how one-time state unrestricted and federal stimulus funds are used.
If only Measure A funds (now assured) are available, the district would have an ongoing increase in available funds plus the use of one-time funds. However, if both Measure A funds and additional state money are received, total funds available to the district would substantially exceed projected expenses, even after restoring the current school day reductions.
Faced with so many possible outcomes, YCTA decided to wait until next year, when school finances should be more settled and parcel tax Measures Q and W come up for renewal. Then, the need for temporary Measure W can be evaluated in light of more certain school funding information.
It is also worth noting that, for many Davis homeowners, the cost of Measure A will seem like a drop in the bucket compared to water and sewer service fee increases being levied by the city of Davis. This is not easy to generalize because, unlike a parcel tax that is the same for every homeowner or renter, water and sewer charges are based on use, and the fee increases are being spread over several years.
If you would like to approximate your own future cost, add up water and sewer charges from last year’s city services bills and multiply by three. YCTA will have more to say about this in the future.
— John Munn, a former member of the Davis Board of Education, is president of the Yolo County Taxpayers Association.