Sunday, May 3, 2015
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Parcel tax unfairness continues

TomEliasW

By
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 [email protected]

Comments

comments

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    Breaking barriers: For Prieto, it’s all about hard work

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Council to hear about drought pricing

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1

    Peaceful Baltimore demonstrators praise top prosecutor

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    Nigeria: Nearly 300 freed women, children led to safety

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    For the record

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

     
    Graveyard thefts land three Woodlanders behind bars

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A3

    Downtown altercation leads to injuries

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A3

     
    Woman arrested for brandishing knife on overpass

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A3

    Yolo DA launches monthly newsletter

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Can plants talk? UCD prof will answer that question

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3 | Gallery

    A Scottish setting for local author’s next book

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

     
    Free beginner yoga class offered

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Video discusses surveillance of prostate cancer

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    NAMI support group meets May 10

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Dr. G featured on the radio

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Fee proposed on rail cars that haul oil, other flammables

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A4 | Gallery

     
    Indoor Fun Fly comes to Woodland

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Internships move UCD doctoral students beyond academia

    By Julia Ann Easley | From Page: A5 | Gallery

    Make Mom a warm vanilla sugar scrub

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6

     
    The secret to Mother’s Day gifting success: Give time, not stuff

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

    Letter book is series of collected missives thanking Mom

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

     
    If your mom fancies something fancy, consider a tea party

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

    Out of Africa and back to Davis: James Carey will give special presentation

    By Kathy Keatley Garvey | From Page: A9 | Gallery

     
    Big Day of Giving makes philanthropy easy

    By Tanya Perez | From Page: A10 | Gallery

    Tuleyome Tales: How are a snake and a mushroom alike?

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A12 | Gallery

     
    Tuleyome hosts Snow Mountain camping trip

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A12 | Gallery

    .

    Forum

    End of life doesn’t mean life must end

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B4 | Gallery

     
    Advancing education for California’s former foster youths

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B4

    With sincere gratitude

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B4

     
    A wonderful day of service

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B4

    Please help Baltimore

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B4

     
    Eyewitness to the ‘fall’ of Vietnam: It was not a bloodbath

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B5 | Gallery

    He can’t give it up

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B6

     
     
    Dangers from prescription pills

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B6

    .

    Sports

    UCD softball splits with Titans

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Trifecta of Devil teams open playoffs Tuesday

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Defending champ DHS clinches a baseball playoff berth

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

    Making memories at Aggie Stadium

    By Wayne Tilcock | From Page: B3 | Gallery

     
    Sports briefs: DHS boys win to reach lacrosse playoffs

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3 | Gallery

    UCD roundup: Aggie women speed past Hornets

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B12 | Gallery

     
    Pro baseball roundup: Hudson pitches Giants past Angels

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B12

    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    .

    Business

    Arcadia partners on soybean trait to improve yield

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

     
    Marrone opens new greenhouse

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

     
    New firm helps students on path to college

    By Wendy Weitzel | From Page: A8

    Yolo County real estate sales

    By Zoe Juanitas | From Page: A8

     
    .

    Obituaries

    .

    Comics

    Comics: Sunday, May 3, 2015

    By Creator | From Page: B8