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Vote No on Measure L

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I am a person who, as a rule, votes liberal on most every issue. That said, I am voting “no” on Measure L, the measure that seeks to impose a property tax increase on homeowners and business owners to repair and update the schools within the Pajaro Valley Unified School District. I invite others to read my following comments and consider voting “no” as well.

Before I am accused of being  Scrooge or the Grinch, let me preface my comments by saying that I recognize that our school facilities are in deplorable shape. I made a recent visit to one of our local high schools, and could not believe the condition of the campus: filthy, walkways covered with gum, graffiti, facilities outdated and badly in need of repair. Some friends of mine who are the parents of a local high school senior said their daughter will not even use the restroom facilities at school because they are so bad. So yes, I recognize the school facilities need fixing, and I agree that we have a collective obligation to provide facilities where we can properly educate our children. But in my opinion, Measure L is not a fair and equitable way to do it.

Measure L seeks to discriminately hold homeowners and business owners solely responsible for financing the repairs and upgrades to the schools. But during this worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, folks simply cannot afford this tax increase right now with the number of homes that are under water, the high unemployment rate and the cost of food and gasoline. Many of us who have been lucky enough to be able to refinance our homes are still struggling just to make ends meet on a day-to-day basis. Let me also remind everyone in Watsonville that a while back we received an increase in our municipal utilities fees, which  will continue to increase for years to come. On this coming ballot, we also face a couple of propositions which could significantly increase our taxes on a state level. Just how much more can people afford to be extended financially?

It seems there are probably a lot of renters within the school district who have children attending our schools, and I wonder how this measure holds them equally responsible for sharing the financial burden. OK, maybe they will see rent increases that will help landlords to offset the cost of higher property taxes  (or maybe not), but have you seen the ridiculous rents people already pay in this area?

I just received my property tax bill and have noticed how it keeps going up and up with more taxes and more fees. It will take at least 20 more years to pay off existing bonds, and Measure L wants another 35 years? Eek! And as a reminder, there are  two Cabrillo College tax bonds still being collected.

Proponents of Measure L say that this measure will create jobs for local residents, pump money back into our community  and help get our local economy back on track. If this measure passes, I assume the school district will begin taking bids for
work that needs to be done to the schools. My question is, will the school district hire all local companies who employ all local people to do the work on our schools, or will they simply go with the lowest bidders, even if they and their employees are from out of the area? And how many of the materials for building and other products will come from local manufacturers and vendors, or at least from the U.S.? How many products from China and other places?

Now here’s the real clincher. In our current Voter Information Pamphlet, the following disclaimer regarding the actual cost to property owners  appears with our school Superintendent’s name appearing at the bottom:

“The attention of all voters is directed to the fact that the foregoing information is based upon projections and estimates only. The actual tax rates and the years in which they will apply may vary from those presently estimated, due to variations from these estimates in the timing of bond sales, the amount of bonds sold and market interest rates at the time of each sale, and actual assessed valuations over the term of repayment of the bonds. . .”

If I interpret this disclaimer correctly, it scares me, and it should scare you too. Do we take this to mean that this measure could end up costing property owners even more than $38.00 per $100,000 of assessed valuation? If so, how much more could it cost us? And how much more protracted can the period of time to pay this off become?

For these reasons, I cannot support Measure L, but I still agree that we need to do something to fix our schools. I might support and find more palatable a measure that would propose raising our local sales tax to make improvements on the schools. In that case, at least the financial burden would be distributed more equitably, and not placed just on property owners, and at least we would know what to expect in the future.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Gary Smith October 22, 2012 at 02:26 PM
Hi David, You are a good friend of mine and we agree on a lot of things but I can't agree with you on this one. I have volunteered on the Personnel Commission with PVUSD for the last six years. I can attest that the District is already running on a shoe-string budget. The Maintenance Division can't keep up with the facility repairs so the problems will continue to worsen in much more damaging ways unless Measure L passes. I believe that a property tax measure is a fair and equitable approach for funding the improvement to school facilities. Property owners should finance this measure because the use of the funds relates directly to improving the quality of our community. A quality educational system helps the community in two ways: 1) resident's children use the schools, and 2) a healthy educational system keeps kids focused on learning and doing positive things rather than to run the streets...this translates to their adult behavior too. Transient taxes like sales tax should pay for infra-structure challenges like street maintenance because that City cost provides service to residents and visitors alike. Gary Smith
Adam D. October 22, 2012 at 02:52 PM
Hi Gary and David - I am sorry Gary, but as a homeowner I have to agree with David on this. It is not my responsibility to pay for schools the government needs to upkeep. PVUSD needs to look inside and see where the money is going because the system is mismanaged. The only people in favor of this is those who don't own a home or business. The schools in the PVUSD system are a reflection of the community they serve. Until the community is cleaned up, the schools, no matter how much money we pump into them, will also be the way they are. The local government is in dire need of money and this is a scam by the local government to ease their over spending and help increase their pocket books. We need to start at the local level, decrease salaries of government employees, and stop the bleeding. The only government employee I have seen take a step in this direction is Greg Caput who endorses lower government salaries because he knows how badly the accounting for the county is done. If they want a measure to pay for schools, add a rental tax, sales tax, or how about a car wash tax since there are 500 of those every weekend. The point is there are bigger problems than the schools and putting a tax on properties is only a band-aid to a bigger issue that is plaguing our local systems.
David H. Perez October 22, 2012 at 03:24 PM
Hi Gary, my friend. I am fine with agreeing to disagree with you. I agree that schools should be one of our biggest priorities, but in this economy, local homeowners and business owners are being bled dry and simply cannot take any more of a financial pounding. As well, property owners should not be required to pay for everybody else who don't own property. There are many people in this community who are not homeowners or business owners, but who benefit, and whose children benefit, from our local schools. There should be a more equitable way to make them also share in the cost, since the schools are the responsibility of the ENTIRE community. In a better economy, the money might be there for more homeowners and business owners, but right now it isn't. Maybe you can afford to bear the burden of higher property taxes, but I can't, and neither can many property owners in town.
Doc October 22, 2012 at 03:47 PM
@Adam Danielski - "Until the community is cleaned up, the schools, no matter how much money we pump into them, will also be the way they are." ___________________________________________________________________ You make an excellent point. Much of the blight at our local schools is blight that was inflicted by students themselves - graffiti and other vandalism, trash, filth and gum smashed all over the walkways. Until many people in this community learn to respect the appearance and cleanliness of what they already have, no amount of money will keep the schools nice.
HizDesign October 22, 2012 at 07:00 PM
Too bad there isn't(?) a way to charge (tax, impose a fee on, or whatever else it might be called) the parents of local students, families of local students, or yes, possibly the students themselves, to pay for the facilities they use. Hmmm, what is it that private schools do? :) Just a thought. As for how much it could actually end up costing? Right David, with a disclaimer like that one, the sky is the limit. Measure L does indeed call for a NO vote.
HizDesign October 22, 2012 at 07:08 PM
In fact, as to the graffiti, the vandalism, trash, filth, gum on sidewalks, etc., why AREN'T the attending students being assigned the cleanup-yes all of it- perhaps as a part of the required community service for graduation....or is that just too much to ask? Easier to throw someone else's money at it?
Kenny Rumrill October 22, 2012 at 07:57 PM
David, You have presented a clear, concise and reasoned article on why we must vote NO on measure L . I agree, Vote No on L.
David H. Perez October 22, 2012 at 08:06 PM
Hi HizDesign. Just to clarify, I believe that all of us in the community have a responsibility to support the schools for a multitude of reasons. I am not saying that parents and students should foot the whole bill - but Measure L disproportionately taxes only people who own property. If they came up with a plan, like a sales tax increase, that were to spread the financial burden out evenly, I would be behind it. I also love your idea about making school clean-up an integral part of the community service students are required to do. Maybe the students would then be more likely to police themselves when they see someone else making a mess or defacing property - knowing that they are the ones who have to clean it up or fix it.
Watzon McWats October 22, 2012 at 10:40 PM
1) I understand that a certain amount of burden sharing is required to keep our society afloat, but as a family without children who already gets penalized on their income taxes for choosing not to have kids, why should be be asked to fork over EVEN MORE of our income to fund our neighbors schooling? We were just barely able to get into our house in the first place, and like many folks, haven't seen much in the way of raises since the economic downturn - in fact, we've both dealt with moments of underemployment since the onset of the recession. Where is this extra money supposed to come from? Like many households, we have already made large changes to our spending habits to cope with the current economic situation. 2) Why should ANY of us give the government any more of our money when they can't seem to spend their current allowance with any measure of responsibility? If you gave your child $100 for new clothes, and then went out and spent it on video games and junk food, would you fork over another $100 in hopes of them spending it wisely this time? No, I don't think so. So why would you keep shelling out money to an irresponsible government with these Utopian hopes that they'll start spending it wisely all of the sudden.
David H. Perez October 22, 2012 at 11:44 PM
Watzon, I agree with most of your comments. Like you, my wife and I have no children (and we are in our late 50's, don't know about you). I still believe that it takes a community to raise a child, and I have no problem contributing a reasonable and equitable amount of money to keep the schools afloat. But Measure L disproportionately places the responsibility on property owners, which is why I don't support it. I retired early from a job I loved a little over a year ago to escape draconian cuts that were coming down the line, and in order to at least avoid losing what little I already had. My wife is in the same boat now, and she will be retiring at the end of this year for the same reason. We will take another huge cut to our monthly income at that point. We can't afford any more property tax increases. We do support Proposition 30, though. I don't think a quarter of a percent sales tax increase will break any of us, and I will enjoy seeing the rich having to pay their fair share.

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