Sunday, January 25, 2015

Parcel tax unfairness continues


From page A10 | September 06, 2013 |

The unfairness of parcel taxes is obvious. With them, owners of every piece of property in a city or school district almost always pay an identical levy, no matter what their holdings are worth. A 700-square-foot one-bedroom house pays the same as a huge indoor mall.

But these have been the rage in recent years among California school officials because the money they raise stays home, unlike more general tax increases based on property value or sales prices, much of which goes to Sacramento for distribution to poor districts under terms of a 1971 court decision.

One small district tried five years ago to make things a little more fair. It has now failed and may have to pay back as much as $7 million in taxes collected under its now-illegal plan.

That district is the Alameda Unified School District across the Bay from San Francisco, where voters in 2008 favored a local parcel tax proposition called Measure H by a margin of 66.9-33.1 percent, barely over the two-thirds threshold set by the 1978 Proposition 13 for passage of most new taxes.

The measure imposed a $120-per-year parcel tax on residential property atop a pre-existing $189 per year levy on all properties. At the same time, commercial and industrial properties were required to pay 15 cents per square foot if they exceeded 2,000 square feet.

This was a classic example of the split roll form of taxation — commercial properties taxed more than residential — which some critics of Proposition 13 have advocated ever since that landmark property tax limitation initiative passed. The split roll is not authorized under any California law even if legislators have occasionally tried to adopt it.

For sure, it offers more fairness than the Proposition 13 formula of taxing all properties at 1 percent of their most recent sales price, with maximum increases of 2 percent of the tax bill each year. And it’s much more fair than parcel taxes.

But Measure H is no more. It was struck down first last December by a state appeals court, and the ruling was upheld by the state Supreme Court early this summer.

This could have led to desperate times for the Alameda schools, which had come to depend on the parcel tax money. Suspecting Measure H might be struck down, school officials proposed another parcel tax in 2011, and it won by a 68-32 percent vote. This one also may prove problematic, taxing all property owners 32 cents per square foot of structure on each parcel. Residents with homes of 1,600 square feet, for example, would pay $512 per year, while owners of larger properties might pay much more, up to a per-parcel cap of $7,999 per year.

That’s also more fair than either standard parcel taxes or the Proposition 13 formula, but it might stand up under legal fire.

All this leaves a few other parcel tax plans aiming for more fairness in an uncertain state. In Davis, for example, voters last year approved a school parcel tax of $204 per year for single-family homes and $20 per unit yearly for multi-unit apartment buildings. The school board recently decided to scrap the multi-unit charge and go with a blanket $204 annual fee for all properties.

Some state legislators want to end the confusion, at least in the parcel tax realm. One bill introduced in January would let school districts assign different tax rates for various types of properties. But that proposal was shelved, at least for this year, when critics asserted it would conflict with Proposition 13, whose basic rules can be changed only via a statewide ballot proposition.

This proposal might come back next year, but if it does, there’s no reason to expect it to get any farther than it has so far. That’s because 2014 is an election year and few lawmakers will want to be accused of tampering with Proposition 13, as sacred a cow as there is in California politics.

All of which puts hopes for tax fairness in California on hold for quite a while.

— Reach syndicated columnist Tom Elias at





Bridges of Yolo County: Wear, tear … repair?

By Elizabeth Case | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Four days of unusual, adventuresome music

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Spanish police arrest 4 suspected members of a jihadi cell

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Rockets kill 30 in Ukrainian city as rebels launch offensive

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Abe ‘speechless’ after video claims IS hostage dead

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

GOP presses state bills limiting gay rights before ruling

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Abortion opponents express renewed hope at California rally

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Share your love (story) with us

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Sip wines at St. James’ annual tasting

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

Fake schools draw federal scrutiny

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3 | Gallery

Winter produce available at Sutter market

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

Vote for your favorites in Readers’ Choice poll

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Donations to be distributed during homeless count

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A4

Speaker will share computer security tips

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Logos Books celebrates 5 years, offers language groups

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Australian olive oil company opens U.S. headquarters in Woodland

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

Explore at the YOLO Outdoor Expo

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Pedal around Davis on weekly bike ride

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Yolo animal shelter seeking rawhide donations

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A5

Woodland Healthcare employees take Great Kindness Challenge

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

At the Pond: Nest boxes give birds new homes

By Jean Jackman | From Page: A6 | Gallery

California ranks worst in nation for guidance counselors

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Davis, Woodland are saving water

By Elizabeth Case | From Page: A12

Words and Music Festival events

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A12



Family isn’t keen on relationship

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: A8

Caring for the aging mouth

By Samer Alassaad | From Page: A8

Big utilities’ nightmare begins to play out

By Tom Elias | From Page: A10

Mayor’s Corner: Let’s renew Davis together

By Dan Wolk | From Page: A10

We have the right to choose

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

We don’t have to suffer

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

City helped immensely

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

Rick McKee cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10

When measles spreads from Disneyland, it’s a small world after all

By New York Times News Service | From Page: A11

From innovation parks to innovative buildings and planning

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11



Wildcats’ inaugural kids development league exceeds expectations

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Aggies get top 2015 gymnastics score, but fall short

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Loud crowd sees DHS boys win

By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Lady Devils hold off Pacers, stay perfect in league

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

UCD men take two tennis matches

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B8

Watney in ninth at Humana Challenge

By Staff and wire reports | From Page: B8







Davis man focusing on cannabidiol business

By Will Bellamy | From Page: A9

Marrone Bio’s Regalia approved for new uses in Canada

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9

UCD grad makes insurance ‘hot 100′ list

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

Yolo County real estate sales

By Zoe Juanitas | From Page: A9





Comics: Sunday, January 25, 2015

By Creator | From Page: B8