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Davis, California

Friday, April 19, 2024

Mail-in election to decide on new tax

Davis’ 44,000 registered voters will decide the fate of a parcel tax in a special election this May. Measure A, the proposed tax, is the only item on the ballot and would help compensate for state budget cuts.

The election will be conducted entirely by mail, meaning voters can mail in ballots or drop them off at the Davis library. Ballots must arrive in the clerk-recorder’s office by May 3 at 8 p.m.

Measure A would raise $3.2 million annually over two years for the Davis Joint Union School District, and will be voted on only by people who live within district lines. The measure requires a two-thirds supermajority for approval. The district is projecting a $6 million shortfall.

The measure would raise annual parcel taxes by $200 for homeowners, starting with tax bills due this fall. Apartment owners would pay increases of $20 a unit over the two years.

Backers say that without the tax, seventh period could be cut for middle schoolers, limiting class elective options.

In the 8,500-student district, over 60 certificated employees would lose their jobs, including 57 teachers. More than a dozen other staff members would face layoffs, school district trustee Gina Daleiden told The Sacramento Bee.

Combined with measures Q and W, Measure A would bring parcel taxes to $520 for homeowners and $170 per unit for apartment owners in the first year. Q and W will expire in June 2012 if they are not renewed.

Measures Q and W passed with over 70 percent of votes in 2007 and 2008, respectively. Together they produce about $6 million annually for the district.

Thomas Randall Jr., coordinator of the Davis Citizens Against Excessive Taxation, called the election a waste of money, saying that it would cost $131,000. He also said the measure lacks exemptions for seniors or disabled people.

“Back in 1973, when my father and I moved to Davis, he was a single parent and I had just started first grade. The property tax rates and the cost of the house we lived in was affordable,” Randall Jr. said. “I got the privilege of residing in the Davis School District and attending our local fine schools, unlike today, where many students face the unaffordable cost of living in Davis.”

Delaine Eastin, former California superintendent of public instruction and a Davis resident, told Davis Media Access (DMA) the measure is necessary to ensure property values stay high and to keep crime low.

“Let’s give ourselves an A,” Eastin said. “The great value of these schools helps us in so many ways. Without this tax we will see staff laid off and essential programs cut. It’s a way of ensuring your community is in a good place.”

The all mail ballot election has some excited about the prospects of Yolo County moving in the direction of all vote-by-mail elections.

Freddie Oakley, clerk recorder for the Yolo County Elections Office, has been an avid supporter of all-mail ballot elections in the county. She is working with Assemblymember Mariko Yamada (D-Davis) on Assembly Bill 1681. This would set up an all-mail ballot election pilot program in Yolo County to study the effects of this type of election on voter turnout. Yamada carried similar legislation that was vetoed by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“We’re hoping Gov. [Jerry] Brown will approve the bill,” Oakley said. “Still, this coming election will be an interesting opportunity to sample and access how voters felt about voting by mail. We will also access how efficient our office is in administering this type of election.”

Tom Stanionis, chief of staff for the Yolo County clerk-recorder, said the last single-issue election in Davis with traditional polling places cost around $220,000.

Forty percent of Davis residents are permanent mail voters, Oakley said. She is hoping the all-mail ballots will cut the price of an election in half.

“We’ve learned it’s cheaper to process these ballots,” Oakley said. “You have to rent a polling place, train and pay workers and buy supplies for polling place — all times 100 polling places.”

Over the past 25 years, Davis school district voters have approved every proposed parcel tax.

DMA, the League of Women Voters of Davis and City Government Channel 16 will host an election forum on April 15. Joan Moses, president of the League said the forum will be held in the Community Chambers at City Hall and community members in the audience will be able to ask questions of speakers from both sides of the measure.

ANGELA SWARTZ can be reached city@theaggie.org.


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