Even as state lawmakers debate making it easier for school districts to pass parcel taxes, a new report finds that lowering the passing threshold to 55 percent of the vote would not expand the use of parcel taxes to poorer communities.
The Public Policy Institute of California looked at 17 years of parcel tax data from across California and found that a 55 percent passing threshold would have boosted the success rate for all parcel tax elections from 59 percent to 89 percent. However, the elections garnering at least 55 percent approval were mostly in wealthy and white communities.
"It is hard to say that lowering the vote threshold for parcel tax passage would expand their reach into new areas of the state or to more disadvantaged students,” said Eric McGhee, one of the report’s authors. "This change would likely make it easier for more of the same kind of districts to pass parcel taxes and for districts that already have them to pass more.”
Voters in the Berkeley Unified School District have approved all eight of the parcel taxes on the ballot since the mid-1980s, when California school districts first started to seek funding from parcel taxes, which are a form of property tax.
As a result, Berkeley's parcel tax amount per student – $3,345 – is among the highest in the East Bay, as shown on the accompanying chart. The chart shows how East Bay school districts rank in revenue per student from parcel taxes.
In many other communities, parcel taxes have failed to receive the necessary two-thirds approval.
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