Effect on local taxpayers
A 2015 census of homeless individuals revealed that 131 people in Davis are living in shelters or on the streets. In order to combat growing numbers of those in need of social services, Mayor Robb Davis suggested a parcel tax — a property tax based off of certain property characteristics as opposed to the value of the property itself — on homeowners. However, the June 2018 ballot has three proposed parcel taxes that the council thinks may unnecessarily weigh on voters. The tax itself has been delayed and may resurface on the Nov. 2018 ballot along with larger issues.
“People liked the idea in a vague sort of way,” said Mayor Pro Tempore Brett Lee.
The term “social services” encompasses meals, shelter, counseling and a whole host of healthcare needs. With several issues competing for attention, Lee is focused on improving access to clean water, showers and laundry. The board has also experimented with paying those in shelters and those on streets to clean the city themselves.
“We wanted to wait and have the specifics of [the tax] more clearly stated,” Lee said. “We would be charging taxpayers an extra $50, and we need to justify where that would go.”
Currently, many organizations help the residents of Davis overcome crises. The Yolo Food Bank provides emergency meals as well as consistent, nutritionally varied food to low-income families. The Short-Term Emergency Aid Committee, funded by approximately 2,000 donors, provides meals and shelter for those in need. Although many companies are competing for the tax revenue, the city may contribute if the proposed tax is passed.
“It would give us more freedom to extend our programs if it were channeled through nonprofits,” said Katy Zane, the executive director of STEAC. “It doesn’t seem like we’ll be seeing much though — it may be difficult to raise a large fund from a small tax.”
The current estimate of those living on the streets or in shelters in the city of Davis is 110 to 145 people. Bill Pride, the executive director of Davis Community Meals and Housing, explained that, during colder months, many people are forced to make accommodations.
“During the 2007 temperature drop, a lot of folks found places to stay and were not counted as homeless,” Pride said.
Lee explained that the tax itself needs definition, without which there may be little hope of passing a two-thirds approval. Lee also explained that if they charged a tax specifically earmarked for social services, the allocation of funds would need to be thought out beforehand.
“I would say it’s a step in the right direction,” Lee said. “There are many reasons people are without homes — mental health is one, as well as economics and personal choice.”
Projects such as installing public bathrooms, lockers and showers were debated during a council meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 2. Counselors to aid individuals with mental health issues were also an important point, but they are more costly for taxpayers.
“They can have humane access,” Lee said. “For not much money, we can improve these people’s lives.”
Written by: Genevieve Murphy-Skilling — firstname.lastname@example.org