Voters in San Francisco will decide June 5 whether to approve a parcel tax to fund teacher pay increases. The measure was placed on the ballot via the local initiative process, with signatures verified this week.
The proposed tax increase, dubbed the “Living Wage for Educators Act of 2018” by supporters, would impose an annual $298 parcel tax, increased annually for inflation, for 30 years. The cost for each property owner would be $8,940 if the rate remained at $298 for the entire 30 years, but the cost is likely to grow significantly as the rate is adjusted for inflation.
The measure allows exemptions for currently exempt property, property owners who reach age 65 before the beginning of the upcoming taxable year, and for property used for parking.
Supporters argue that the tax is necessary to attract and retain quality teachers and staff within San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) because of skyrocketing rents and the Bay Area’s “affordability crisis.” Observers noted that adding $298 per year to the cost of owning property would make housing even less affordable in the city.
Officials estimate that the tax would cost property owners $50 million annually. The money would be used to, among other things, raise the salaries of teachers and paraeducators, increase staffing at “high-need schools,” provide additional professional development to staff and provide more competitive compensation and benefits to other school district personnel.
David Crane, a lecturer and research scholar at Stanford University, said increased pensions and healthcare benefits for retired employees may be the real reason for the parcel tax. Crane noted that from 2012 to 2017, SFUSD’s financial reports show that the district’s spending on pension and healthcare costs for retired employees grew more than $50 million.
In 2012, the district spent 26 percent of the amount dedicated to teacher salaries on retirement costs. That number increased to nearly 70 percent by 2017. Over the same period, district revenue grew 36 percent.
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