Legislation to help K-12 school districts throughout California, including the Davis Joint Unified School District, flexibility in setting parcel tax rates earned passage from the state Senate on Monday.
Senate Bill 1021 by Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, would restore K-12 school districts’ ability to levy parcel taxes at rates based on a land’s classification, an ability eliminated by a 2013 state court decision. Parcel taxes have been used for more than 25 years to fund K-12 school districts, including Davis, and since 1988 to fund community colleges and 15 other agencies.
“The Legislature must act to restore this valuable revenue option if school districts are to continue to meet their communities’ educational needs,” Wolk said in a news release.
For 25 years, K-12 school districts thought they could establish classifications for property such as commercial, residential and industrial, and apply different parcel rates accordingly — as long as the same rate applied to all properties in the classification.
However, a court ruled last year that these differentiated tax rates are invalid due to a lack of clarity in existing state law. SB 1021 restores most, but not all, of K-12 school districts’ authority to levy parcel taxes using different rates based on property size, type, and use — as long as the same tax is levied on all properties of the same use, or at a lower rate on unimproved property.
The measure applies only to school district parcel taxes imposed in the future.
“SB 1021 will provide clarity on the important issue of uniformity regarding parcel taxes, allowing school districts greater flexibility as they structure local revenue measures to fund important programs and meet students’ critical needs,” said Gina Daleiden, president of the Davis Board of Education.
“Parcel taxes are critical tools for local revenue raising efforts, and have allowed districts to take steps locally to restore some of the deep cuts sustained over the last number of years,” said Andrea Ball of the California School Boards Association, which is sponsoring SB 1021.
The bill, which will next be heard in the State Assembly, is supported by numerous school districts as well as the California Teachers Association, California School Employees Association, Association of California School Administrators, California Association of School Business Officials, California Labor Federation and AFSCME, AFL-CIO.