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schools, and could not believe the condition of the campus: filthy, walkways covered with gum, graffiti, facilities outdated and badly in need of repair.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.