February 2010 home page


SCHOOLS: Pay Per Parcel
Shelly Atkinson | Pine Needles


Del Mar Union School District Map.  www.dmusd.org

photo enlargement

As our school district battles the greatest financial crisis in its history, a number of budget gap solutions are being considered. One idea is a parcel tax. And this item might just appear on your spring or fall ballot.

Local parcel taxes – qualified special taxes – provide a way for districts to generate “soft cost” funding. It’s a flat fee on each parcel (for residents and businesses) rather than on the assessed value of property.

Unlike the byzantine financing that comes from the state, a parcel tax allows a district to secure direct funds. The proceeds can be used for most anything: if the measure is worded appropriately – read creatively – the funds can be spent on items from teacher salaries to materials and equipment, etc. The typical range for a parcel tax is $50 to $150, but there is no legal limit. In some districts, it’s far more: Palo Alto has a $589-per-parcel tax on its May ballot.

Del Mar Union School District Board of Trustees.  www.dmusd.org

from the left:  Katherine White, Steven McDowell, annette Easton
Comischell Rodriguez. Doug Perkins

Campaign strategies vary – some deploy themes of unity and are run by parents; some are more stealthy in nature; and, many rely on hired guns for their hopeful success.

A number of districts have had a parcel tax in place for the past few years. Others – like ours – are considering it now when many families are feeling a pinch and are growing tired of the endless requests to lighten their wallets.

While a facilities bond can be passed with a 55 percent majority, a parcel tax must pass with a two-thirds majority. That’s not an easy task: From 1983 through June 2009, California voters approved 261 parcel taxes in 486 elections; 423 would have passed under a 55% threshold, and 449 received a majority vote. 83 districts have passed parcel taxes between 2001 and June 2009. The typical district was quite wealthy and located in the San Francisco Bay Area.

It’s important to note that seniors can be exempt from the parcel tax, increasing the odds that a parcel tax measure will pass. Senior citizens can vote for it, without having to pay for it.

More locally, San Diego County has never had a parcel tax approved by the voters.
But in 2008 all seven school bonds passed. Perhaps even with smaller pockets, voters are wanting to support education.

What’s to come: Notice of a parcel tax election must be given within 90 days in advance of the date of the election. So, stay tuned to see if the Board starts polling to gauge sentiment in your neighborhood.

We might soon find out if Del Mar voters trust them with their money.


© 2007-2015 Del Mar Community Alliance, Inc.  All rights reserved.