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What is a parcel tax?

  • A parcel tax is a tax on every square foot of a building – you can think of it as a tax on occupied space. The current tax in place in West County is 7.2 cents per square foot. So, a home owner with a 1,000 square foot house would pay a tax of $72 a year. All told, the WCCUSD parcel tax brings in about $10 million a year (out of what is currently a $331 million budget).

 Why do school districts use parcel taxes?

  • In 1978, California’s Proposition 13 capped property taxes at 1% of a property’s value, and forbade the value from being reassessed except under certain circumstances. For most states, education funding primarily comes from property taxes (though this method has many critics). Without steady growth of property taxes as an option, school districts have turned to parcel taxes as a way to raise additional revenues.

What are parcel taxes used for?

  • In WCCUSD, the parcel tax is used to help pay for school operations: things like science materials, tutoring, custodians, coaches, etc. Parcel taxes can be used for any purpose that is laid out in the parcel tax measure (for instance, in Berkeley, a large parcel tax pays for nearly one-third of teacher salaries).

What’s the difference between a parcel tax and a bond?

  • They are used for completely different purposes and overseen by different bodies. Parcel taxes are used for school operations, while bonds are used for capital expenses (school construction and repair, etc.). The investigations underway regarding WCCUSD’s bond program have nothing to do with the parcel tax. Because parcel taxes and bonds are separate categories of funds, the funds in one program cannot be co-mingled with the other.

What does it take to pass a parcel tax?

  • Parcel taxes must be approved by a supermajority of voters (66%).

What’s the state of the current parcel tax?

  • The current parcel tax is in place until 2019, when it is set to expire unless renewed by voters before then.

Why is a WCCUSD parcel tax measure on the 2016 ballot if it doesn’t expire until 2019?

  • Primarily, it is much easier to pass a parcel tax during a presidential election year than an off-year election, because voter turnout is much higher and tends to include voters who are demographically more likely to support school funding measures. 2016 is the last presidential election year before the current tax expires.

What happens next?

  • On August 20, 2016 the WCCUSD School Board unanimously approved a resolution to place the parcel tax renewal measure on the November 2016 ballot. The measure, if passed by voters, would extend the parcel tax at its current rate at 7.2 cents per square foot.

Where can I learn more?

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