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By Steve Levy

Dare to be Fair Vote No on Prop 15

Uploaded: Oct 10, 2020

I was brought up to believe I should help pay for the public services I want. So I support school bonds and parcel taxes as a long-term investment and in gratitude (pay it forward) for those who funded great schools for me and my children and grandchildren and will vote yes on my local school parcel tax.

But I am voting no on Prop 15 where folks like me were told they could opt out while only others were asked to pay.

Before going over my reasons, I want to share some tax data. The average increase in assessed value in my county Santa Clara was 7.6% over the past 7 years far outpacing consumer price increases. While we were a relatively fast growing county in terms of AV, LA averaged 6.0% gains, Riverside 6.1% and Orange, San Diego and San Bernardino 5.8%. Whatever fiscal stresses are felt are not the result of slow propert6y tax growth.

The proponents make a big deal claiming that the share of property taxes paid by residential property has risen while the share paid by non residential has fallen. I am not sure what relevance this has but it has not been true since 2005. The Santa Clara Assessor’s report for 2020-2021 shows that the non-residential share has risen since 2005.

The proponents make a big deal of the fact that some commercial properties have not been reassessed in decades. That is true but it is similarly true for some homes (including mine and many of my friends who are supporting Prop 15 and many directors of my local and the state League of Women Voters (I chair the LWVPA housing committee).

In addition I got to sell my home buy a new home and keep my 1985 adjusted AV.

I understand why the initiative sponsors (not resident supporters) wanted this. They knew even though it was not fair that if long-time homeowners like me were asked to chip in, the proposition would lose.

But it flunks the fairness test of treating equals equally. Note that anyone who has owned a home for a long period has enough equity to make a modest additional contribution to services they want. We now have home equity loans and reverse mortgages unlike in 1978.

The second reason to vote no is that many residents much poorer than long-time homeowners will end up paying part of this tax. Large commercial properties include shopping centers and offices where tenants or customers will end up paying more. Many have leases with property tax increases passed on. Not all or even many commercial properties covered by prop 15 are large companies or owned only by wealthy individuals. There will be unintended consequences. Think of a large shopping center in poor communities. And there could be job losses.

The third reason has to do with the fiscal pressures schools and cities are facing. They are the result of surging health and retirement costs, not low property tax growth. First, as a result there is no nexus as commercial property owners are not the cause of these rising costs.

Second, it is very unlikely that much if any of the revenues from Prop 15 will end up in increased services. The most likely result is that the union sponsors will push for pay raises (maybe deservedly and no benefit cuts).

If you want to pay our teachers and staff more, offer me a chance to chip in but don’t opt out and ask others to pay.

Finally our assessor and most others say this will be costly and a nightmare to implement.