Local Tax Elections, Local Taxes

Voters Reject Four of Six Parcel Taxes in May 7 Special Elections

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Voters in various parts of the state approved one parcel tax and rejected four in special elections that concluded May 7, while another remains too close to call based on early results.

The measure whose fate is not yet known is Measure A, placed on the ballot by officials from the Los Gatos-Saratoga Union High School District in Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. If approved, it will impose a $128-a-year parcel tax (costing taxpayers a cumulative $2.52 million annually) for nine years.

As of May 9, Measure A was leading with 66.71 percent of the voters in support, just above the two-thirds necessary to take effect.

The San Jose Mercury News encouraged voters to reject Measure A, noting that the tax increase was purposely placed before voters during an election expected to have low voter turnout.

“The district’s purported reason for holding a special election essentially amounts to a failure to plan ahead,” the Mercury News wrote in an editorial. “In their explanation to us, they said they did not want to rush to meet the deadline for the March ballot, and waiting until the November election would not have allowed them time to make budget adjustments if voters rejected the replacement tax. … Much more likely, district officials are seeking to boost their chances at the polls by putting the measure up in a low-turnout election when school supporters will probably be the most motivated to cast ballots.”

The latest results indicate that turnout was just under 28 percent in Santa Clara County.

The Mercury News editorial board also charged the school district with deceptively crafting ballot language to confuse voters.

“[The voter information] says that approval of the district’s measure would be ‘renewing its expiring education parcel tax at the current $49, plus $79/parcel, providing $2,520,000 annually for nine years, with annual adjustments ….’ For those straining to figure out what that means: The district is proposing to replace a $49 fixed annual parcel tax with one for $128 that would increase annually with inflation.”

In other special elections that concluded this week:

  • Two Contra Costa Taxes Likely to Fail. Two parcel taxes placed on the ballot by the San Ramon Valley Unified School District appear likely to fail, based on preliminary election results. Measure E, currently with 61.7 percent support, would renew an expiring $144 parcel tax for nine years, costing property owners $6.8 million annually. Measure F, currently with 56.8 percent of the vote, would impose a new $98 parcel tax for nine years, at a cumulative cost of $4.6 million annually for property owners. Voter turnout was approximately 20.4 percent, according to preliminary results.
  • Marin Parcel Tax Expected to Pass. Measure J, placed on the ballot by the Nicasio School District in Marin County, would renew an expiring $748.21 parcel tax for 10 years and increase the amount 3 percent every year. The election night results show that Measure J had 75.57 percent of the vote in support, but that result could change as ballots are received in the 445-member special district. Voter turnout was roughly 29 percent, according to the preliminary count.
  • Plumas Parcel Taxes Rejected. Voters in the Chester Public Utility District, in Plumas County, rejected two parcel taxes: Measure B, which would have imposed a $450 parcel tax indefinitely, costing property owners $665,000 per year, received only 49.79 percent of the vote; Measure C, which would have imposed a $1,500 parcel tax indefinitely, costing property owners a projected $2.2 million annually, received only 27.53 percent of the voter. Voter turnout was 37.8 percent turnout, according to the preliminary totals.

While election results are preliminary, observers noted that they are not likely to change significantly. Ballots postmarked by May 7 continue to be accepted and tallied.