Category Archives: Parcel Tax

Update on the Parcel Tax Effort February 6 2012

Below is a message from the Save Our Schools effort in Scotts Valley:

As you may have heard, the District is going place a Parcel tax measure on the June 5th Ballot.  100% of the money will go to our Scotts Valley Schools, it will be used entirely to support the classroom, and it cannot be taken away by the state.  Further, senior citizens and those receiving SSI for a disability may exempt themselves.    Save Our Schools Scotts Valley is a non-profit that we have organized to help ensure that the Measure passes.  To help us pass this measure, we need your help with the following:

  1. SAVE THE DATE: MARCH 9th, from 6-9pm at BRUNO’s  BBQ in SV.
    We are holding a campaign KICK-OFF PARTY March 9th, upstairs at Brunos.  We are hosting an event to raise awareness and support.  Please save the date, and we will send more information in a couple weeks.
  2. Send us 10 emails of people that will support the Measure
    Help us build our group of supporters.  If you forward this on to 10 of your friends, and copy us, we can expand our group.  We want everyone in Scotts Valley to be informed about the Measure, and understand why it is important to support.
  3. Visit Our Website , and add your name!
    Finally, visit our website, and sign up to volunteer, endorse the measure, get a yard sign and even make a donation.  We need your help!

Scotts Valley School District Community Poll Results

Screen shot 2011-01-21 at 10.51.50 PMThe results of the recent poll authorized by the Scotts Valley School District were presented to the community on Wednesday January 19th. The district was advised to move forward though only after a sustained community outreach campaign to ensure passage of a parcel tax measure. I won’t rehash all the numbers as they’re covered well in the above link. The base level of support was found to be 68% with a 6% margin of error.

On the up side the survey provides a wealth of information regarding how to best shape a measure to yield the desired results that will be incorporated into all the work that’s already been done to this point.

Bottom Line

These results indicate there’s a lot of hard work yet to be done to reach a point where it’s worth asking the voters of Scotts Valley to support a parcel tax.

With Jerry Brown’s pending “fasten your seatbelts” budget things are likely to get very ugly sooner rather than later.

If you’re not already involved feel free to contact me for ways in which you can help.

Thoughts on a Parcel Tax

I’ve spent a great deal of time working to understand the issues facing public schools in Scotts Valley and thinking about the options available to the community to mitigate the budget crisis. Throughout the process I’ve gathered and published answers to many questions, attended many meetings, spoken with lots of people and given the variety of socio-economic hurdles we currently face I’m struggling to justify continuing to push forward with a parcel tax proposal. Here are the factors that I see affecting these efforts:

  • Economic Climate
    California voters nearly unanimously rejected new taxes by defeating16 of 18 parcel taxes this past election and neither the economy nor voter sentiment can be expected to improve measurably in the immediate time frame currently under consideration for SVUSD (first half of 2010).
  • State budget crisis
    The state of California is in the midst of a fiscal disaster further complicated by a flawed public school financing and unless the Federal Government comes to the rescue yet again no reasonable person can assume Sacramento is going to “right the ship” any time soon. The situation is further exacerbated by the pending changes in Sacramento where turmoil is likely to rule the day. Forecasting the projected need becomes a dart game which doesn’t help when you’re trying to explain to voters why you need the amount you’re asking for. At the end of the last school year we were discussing a $950K shortfall for two consecutive years, with the new state “budget” that number has decreased by over $100K based on imaginary figures from our governor and legislature.
  • Community Apathy
    Having put in many hours attending a wide variety of meetings, building this website and setting up Organizing for Scotts Valley Schools I’ve come to realize while people are concerned about class sizes my sense is this crisis hasn’t reached beyond a fleeting interest for a majority of people. Over the last two weeks the school district held five very lightly attended community meetings to engage and educate Scotts Valley residents a fact that does not bode well despite district wide email and newspaper advertising. Likewise many, if not most of the meetings I attend draw a small group of usual suspects, an issue often raised, which speaks to people’s overall level of interest.
  • Competing interests
    There are various organizations associated with the district’s four schools essentially competing for the same fundraising dollar. Naturally parents are more likely to donate to their child’s school for supplies and programs like art, music and sports often to the detriment of the SVEF or the District itself.
  • Lack of financial transparency
    With four schools in SVUSD there are, at a minimum, five organizations (PTA’s and SVEF) with five separate balance sheets not readily available to the public via the web or other medium. The lack of transparency makes it difficult at best to understand the flow of dollars at the various schools. One issue this raises is that many times people are confused regarding which organization they should donate to especially when site specific fundraising overlaps with district wide efforts such as Dollar-A-Day (DAD).
  • Guidance from the District
    While I’ve attended numerous meetings where the Administration has laid out a thoughtful and considered presentation on its financial state there seems to be a dearth of guidance as to how the community should or could approach tackling the problems at hand. Public school financing is so overly complicated reliance on those with deep knowledge of the subject seems critical and I’d like to see the district take a more proactive approach to guiding community efforts surrounding a parcel tax or other fund raising efforts. This could be a catch-22 considering the third bullet item above.
  • Ongoing perception of poor communication
    Unfortunately, the perception persists that communication is inadequate. In some cases this is threaded into the fabric of the district as a result of union contracts and things such as adherence to rules dictating decorum at public meetings. Although again, I’d refer back to bullet item 3 above. It’s hard to spark conversation with an apathetic audience.

It’s hard to imagine a more adverse set of circumstances under which to move forward with a parcel tax initiative. Last May/June I was buoyed by the fact a parcel tax could serve as a viable bridge to better times but the last several months have curtailed that optimism. While I continue to believe a parcel tax is the only viable avenue large enough to thwart further cuts the required 66 2/3% seems unfortunately beyond grasp until at least some of the above items are resolved.

Where do things stand

At this point, the district has been asked to price a professional community-centric poll which would run in the range of $10-20K. The results of the poll are intended to help guide the Board in determining whether or not to move forward, test ballot language, set an amount and gauge community sentiment. In addition to polling costs placing a measure on the  ballot isn’t free and would likely run into the thousands if not 10’s of thousands. My understanding is the district would spend upwards of $30-40K to get a measure in front of voters. The number would vary depending on the type of survey conducted and type of ballot used (mail-in vs. polling place) and although these funds could come from outside the district it’s difficult to assume the community could find alternative funding to hit a February 4th cutoff date for the earliest possible vote in 2011.

Citizen’s Tax Exploration Committee Meeting

[Updated: May 5, 2010] Added minutes from the meeting indicated with the vertical blue line at the left margin.

When: May 5th 2010 6:30-8:30pm
Where: Scotts Valley Middle School Library
Who: Open to anyone interested

On Wednesday May 5th, 2010 there will be a meeting for those interested in discussing and exploring the available options concerning a parcel tax. As with any tax measure there are many details to consider and a wide array of option regarding how to structure such a tax. Researching and formulating such a ballot measure is a task for citizens of the community and therefore it’s up to all of us as to what we would want to appear on a ballot.

Meeting Agenda

  • Introductions
    • Michael Shulman
    • Steve Trefethen
    • Derek Timm
    • Inger Arum
    • Brian Harrison
    • Jondi Gumz
    • Carlos Arcangeli
    • Katie Bagley
  • Action item update from last meeting
    • Michael put together a survey which was reviewed during the meeting for content/length/focus
    • Michael and Brian did great work putting together a parcel spreadsheet in order to review different tax scenarios
  • News Updates
    • Scotts Valley Education Association (SVEA) position, results from survey
      • Survey has been completed and results should be forthcoming
    • Assessor’s office statement on the question of tax exempt property
    • Email / phone contact with consulting firm
      • Michael was contacted by WiSE Campaigns, a parcel tax consulting company, regarding our efforts. Not sure where that will lead at this point.
    • Los Gatos HS parcel tax survey article (now linked)
    • Senior exemption public notice in Sentinel (SC City)
      • Seniors may file a one time exemption from a Parcel Tax as opposed to re-filing yearly
    • Dollar-a-Day (DaD) letter
    • OSVS
      • Discussion of using this website as a basis for communication and fostering neighborhood organizations.
    • Others (round the table)
  • Google docs status
    • Agreement that Google Docs is a good place for content/sharing
    • Parcel spreadsheet data imported into Google Docs
    • Draft survey available to the group via Google Docs
  • Tax Structure
    • Amount: $1.0M (what we need) v $X
    • Distributions:
      • $150 flat
      • $fixed + $/acre (and variations)
      • Res v non-res
    • Distribution constraints:
      • Min / Max range
      • Avoid steep transitions
      • Simplicity
    • Duration: 5 yrs v ?
    • Purpose: People and programs
      • Discussion focused on raising enough to cover what’s needed which is $1M
      • Issue raised of estimating the amount of Senior exceptions
      • Examination of a per acre rate with a cap
      • Leveraging the previously discussed $98 amount
  • Survey Questions
    • Awareness of fiscal situation
    • $150/parcel support level
    • Support for other distributions (2? 3? 4?)
    • Importance / non-importance of distribution parameters
    • Duration – is it even worth asking about?
    • Purpose – a statement rather than a question
    • Bond – is this the time to gather this info?
      • Desire to keep the survey very short and concise
      • Michael will be reworking the survey based on the progress made on a proposed structure for the parcel tax
  • Communications & Networking
    • Organizing for Scotts Valley Schools (OSVS)
      • Decision to move forward with supporting/utilizing this effort Desire to keep the survey very short and concise
      • Desire to maintain progress while moving into Summer break

At this point, there has been only one other related meeting held on April 14 at the Scotts Valley Middle School Library.

In order to properly structure any tax measure it’s really important to get as much feedback and input as possible, hope to see you there.

[Updated: May 5, 2010] Updated agenda and reworked the wording for type type of meeting to indicate this is open to anyone in the community interested in helping explore Parcel Tax options.

Parcel Tax FAQ

Update Aug, 2010 This content has been superseded by the OFSVS wiki which contains far more content.

I’ll use this post to gather questions and answers relating to any Parcel Tax initiative that may be considered for SVUSD. You can read more about successful Bond and Parcel Tax initiatives throughout California in 2009. You can also read more about When and How to Call an Election.

To join the efforts to study and develop a parcel tax initiative please contact me.

How does a Parcel Tax measure get placed on the ballot?

The Scotts Valley School Board has the authority to place a measure on the ballot.

What is the cost to the school district to place a Parcel Tax measure on the ballot?

This depends on the type of ballot used (mail-in versus precinct). A mail-in ballot would incur a higher cost to the district.

Where does the money come from to pay for a Parcel Tax initiative?

The money to place a measure on the ballot comes from the School Districts budget.

What lead time does the School Board need to place the measure on the ballot?

90 days. (supporting details needed here)

Is a flat $98 per parcel tax proposal enough?

The $98 Parcel Tax that’s been mentioned in the Scotts Valley Banner is likely to fall several hundred thousand dollars short of the $950,000 projected shortfall for 2011-2012. This is based on approximately 7000 parcels in Scotts Valley and includes a Senior Citizen exception meaning somewhere less than $700,000 dollars would be raised leaving the District several hundred thousand dollars short. For more details read Gary Redenbacher’s Scotts Valley Banner article It’s The Law Of Parcel Taxes.

Learning about Parcel Taxes

I’ve been trying to investigate the subject of Parcel Taxes so as to be able to discuss it intelligently. I found the following data regarding successful California Parcel Tax initiatives interesting specifically related to the amounts, durations and specifics of the tax. The data, which comes from Successful 2009 Bond and Parcel Tax Elections outlines a number of interesting parameters for structuring such a tax I was previously unaware of (ex. size of residential units, nonresidential parcels etc.) underscoring my naiveté regarding the subject matter but at least I’ve learned a few things along the way.

The data highlights districts from which it seems SVUSD (and the community) could seek advice. The amount for the current Parcel Tax drive here in Scotts Valley of $98 is explained here though I can’t seem to find a proposed duration but there’s a useful chart at the bottom of that page.

I’m curious if drawing a correlation, using the ADA figures, to SVUSD would help in analyzing the data?

Successful 2009 Bond and Parcel Tax Elections

District County ADA Parcel Tax Rate and Term Date Vote
Acalanes Union High Contra Costa 5,673 $189/parcel 9-Nov 74.50%
Albany City Unified Alameda 3,668 $555/residential unit, greater of $0.11/sq. ft. or $555 for nonresidential parcels. (Combines three existing parcel taxes from 1987, 1999 and 2005.) 9-Nov 77.30%
Albany City Unified Alameda 3,668 $149/residential unit, greater of $0.03 sq. ft. or $149/each nonresidential parcel – inflation adjusted – 5 years  9-Nov 76.30%
Bolinas-Stinson Union Marin 99 $250/parcel for 5 yrs 9-Mar 75.20%
Culver City Unified Los Angeles 6,336 $96/parcel – 5 years. 9-Nov 74.90%
Cupertino Union Santa Clara 16,648 $125/parcel for 6 yrs 9-May 70.00%
La Cañada Unified Los Angeles 4,109 $150/parcel for 5 yrs 9-Jun 75%
Lagunitas Elementary Marin 197 $325/parcel – 8 years, 6.5% annual COLA  9-Nov 67.40%
Larkspur Elementary Marin 1,125 $368.88/parcel for single family residential, 5% COLA, 8 years. Parcels with more than one single-family residence, $50 for each additional unit. Nonresidential parcels: $368.88 for up to 4,999 sq. ft.; $700 for 5,000 to 9,999 sq. ft.; $2,000 for 10,000 to 24,999 sq. ft.; $4,000 for 25,000 to 99,999 sq. ft.; $8,000 for 100,000 to 249,999 sq. ft.; $16,000 for 250,000 to 499,999 sq. ft.; $20,000 for 500,000 sq. ft. and higher.  9-Nov 70.80%
Moreland Elementary Santa Clara 3,745 $95/parcel for 8 yrs 9-May 69.10%
Novato Unified Marin 7,276 $251/parcel for 6 yrs 9-Jun 68.70%
Orinda Union Elementary Contra Costa 2,399 $124/parcel 9-Mar 70.80%
Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified Los Angeles 12,000 $165/parcel for 4 yrs 9-Jun 68.90%
Piedmont City Unified Alameda 2,519 Average $249/parcel for 3 yrs 9-Jun 73.20%
Piedmont City Unified Alameda 2,519 Single family: $1,805/parcel for up to 4,999 sq.ft. lot; $2,051/parcel for 5,000-9,999 sq.ft. lot; $2,339/parcel for 10,000-14,999 sq.ft. lot; $2,685/parcel for 15,000-19,999 sq.ft.lot; $3,065/parcel for $20,000 sq.ft. lot. Multifamily: $1,200/unit. Multiple parcel: $1,971/dwelling. Commercial: $3,065/parcel for up to 10,000
sq.ft. lot; $4,583/parcel for 10,000 sq.ft. and greater. Undeveloped: $916/parcel Extension for 4 yrs of two separate measures on June 7, 2005 that expire on July 1, 2010 
9-Jun 78.40%
San Carlos San Mateo 570 $78/parcel for 6 yrs 9-May 71.70%
San Marino Unified

Los Angeles 3,192 $795/parcel for 6 yrs 9-May 71.20%
San Ramon Valley Unified Contra Costa 23,918 $144/parcel for 7 yrs 9-May 72.20%
South Pasadena Los Angeles 4,201 $95/multiunit parcel, $288/parcel for 4 yrs  9-Jun 67.30%
Walnut Creek Elementary Contra Costa 3,053 $82/parcel 9-Nov 75.70%
Woodside Elementary San Mateo 400 $242/parcel for 8 yrs 9-May 75.80%

Source: Successful 2009 Bond and Parcel Tax Elections