Watchdog offers analysis on November ballot measures

Watchdog Logo 300x95 Watchdog offers analysis on November ballot measuresBy Barbara Zivica

Worried about paying bills, losing your job, holding onto your home? Politicians don’t worry about budget deficits they‘re responsible for. They’ve got a simple solution….. raising OUR taxes to pay for THEIR fiscal mismanagement!

Here’s my analysis on some of the ballot measures that will appear on the November ballot. If all pass, consider the TOTAL hit to your budget and the warning notice below.

MEASURE A – the Contra Costa Community District Parcel tax ($11 for six years, 2/3 voter approval required) to provide Diablo Valley College, Contra Costa College, Los Medanos College, and the Brentwood and San Ramon Centers with “funds that cannot be taken by the state, maintain high quality education, support course offerings and instruction programs, including healthcare, technology and public safety, increase access to support services and prepare students for university transfer.” This ballot measure includes everything but the kitchen sink! NOTE: In September, Los Medanos College put out a legal notice inviting pre-qualified contractors to bid on a $10 to $15 million student services remodel, project subject to a Project Stability Agreement (PSA) between the college district and the CCC Building and Construction Trades Council. Such agreements are discriminatory because they exclude non union workers and can raise the cost of a project by 12 to 18%.

MEASURE Q – the Contra Costa County Fire Department’s proposed seven year $75 parcel tax (2/3 voter approval required) . The parcel tax, which has been said to equate to a $1.44 daily cup of McDonald’s coffee, would merely, according to the county civil grand jury, be a short term fix. Without the tax the District projects a budget deficit of $13 million next year and with the tax a $2 million deficit in budget year 2015/16. NOTE: The Grand Jury recommended the county’s fire districts consolidate, lowering operational costs, abandon outdated delivery models and address rising labor costs and pension liabilities.

Measure B – Antioch School Facilities Improvement District #1 – a $56.5M bond measure (55% voter approval required) . This is the third go around at the ballot box for the AUSD. Voters passed Measure C, the $61,600,000 June 2008 school facilities improvement bond measure, but Measure G, the June 2012 $59.5 million bond measure, bulk of the funds going to Antioch High’s modernization, failed by a narrow margin at the ballot box. Measure B is a repeat of Measure J but with all the funds going to modernize Antioch High. (The latest release of API scores shows Antioch High coming in with a score of 681, Deer Valley High 737; the state’s goal is an API value of 800. Renovation Antioch High is unlikely to improve test scores.)

Problem is taxpayers in the School Improvement Facilities Improvement District already pay about $50 for every $100,000 of assessed value due to Measure C, although the district used only approximately $40 million of the $61 million before closing the bond down. If Measure B passes, tax bills to retire school bonds will basically double, going from about $56 per $100,00 to about $106 in 2014 and reach $125 by 2023, For a home assessed at a current average $141,500, that $177 a year!

Incidentally, the district is currently setting aside 3% toward maintenance but are putting the state funding for deferred maintenance (generally for replacement) into their Capital Facilities improvement account for deferred maintenance needs. The district is currently not funding their Irrevocable Trust for Post Retirement Benefits, but are not drawing against it and allowing the fund to grow for future Post-Retirement requirements.

The district has a $31 million ending fund balance but states that if Prop. 30 and 38 are defeated, will be at $7 million plus yearly deficit and can only receive a positive certification based on 3 years projection with 3% reserves.

PROPOSITION 30: Governor Jerry Brown’s sales and income tax initiative, a constitutional amendment, entitled “Temporary taxes to fund education, guaranteed local public safety funding: The measure would up the California sales tax from 7.25 to 7.5% for 4 years, hurting those with lower incomes (the bottom fifth of earners who spend 82% of their income on taxable purchases) and raise income taxes for 7 years on the more affluent who currently pay about 40% of the state’s personal income taxes, making our top income tax rate the highest in the nation. (One of it’s provisions would end state reimbursement to local governments for costs resulting from certain provisions of the Brown Act, such as the requirement to prepare and post agendas for public meetings.

NOTE California’s school accountability system has been based on the Academic Performance Index (API) which measures the performance of schools and the achievement of students. The API is based on student scores on state tests. This bill will change the way API is calculated, as of 2016 test results will constitute no more than 60% of the API for secondary schools, for elementary and middle schools, at least 60% of the API will be based on test scores. Options to take the receding place of student test scores are troubling e.g. locally convened panels to visit schools, observe teachers, interview pupils and examine pupil work. Prop. 30 doesn’t provide measurement yardsticks for these highly subjective school review panels and evaluations could have little relationship to student proficiency in core subjects.
Proposition 38 is a 12 year tax initiative to fund education and early childhood programs. It would increase personal income tax rates on annual earnings over $7,316, using a sliding scale from .04% for lower individual earners to 2.2% for individuals earning over $2.5 million, for twelve years.

WARNING NOTICE: Beginning with the 2012 tax year (the tax that is due April 15 of 2013) not all items on your property tax bill will be deductible. The state is going to require a breakdown between deductible and nondeductible items from your property tax bills. State law follows Federal in that you are only allowed to deduct the portion of real estate taxes that is based on the assessed value of your property with some limited exceptions. Big dollar exemptions could be eliminated e.g. Mello Roos fees. It also means that parcel taxes, sewer changes, and items like the Mosquito and Vector amounts will not be deductible.

A sample property tax bill showing deductible vs. nondeductible items can be found at www.ftb.ca.gov/individuals/Real_Estate_Tax

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