Early Warning System -- California School Bonds Clearinghouse
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Early Warning System

School Construction Bonds Are Not Categorically Bad

There are legitimate purposes for school construction bonds. However, in the current political climate your district may be pressed for money and may try to use bonds as a way to alleviate pressure on its regular budget.

Traditional Bonds (2/3 vote)

Traditional bonds require two-thirds voter approval for passage. This concept conforms to the general fairness principles that are found in federal and state constitutions and in parliamentary law, such as Robert's Rules of Order.

In this situation, a significant minority has the ability to protect itself and its property against the tyranny of the majority.

The taxes to repay these bonds are assessed against property based on the property's assessed value. Thanks to Proposition 13, the assessed value typically changes only when property changes hands. This makes the repayment of bonds a heavier burden on newer property owners and more valuable properties.

Parcel Taxes (2/3 vote)

Your district may use a parcel tax for purposes that it cannot use traditional bonds for. Each property parcel pays the same amount of tax regardless of its assessed value.

When you approve a parcel tax, you know exactly how it will impact your tax liabilities and for how long.

Proposition 39 Bonds (55% vote)

Proposition 39 (2000) put a kink in the fairness of imposing taxes. Under this scheme, a slight super-majority can impose a tax on a very significant minority. Many argue that this throws traditional principals of fairness out the window.

Proposition 39 bonds are suspect, not only because of the lower threshold for passage, but also because they may include items, especially technology, that have a very short useful life. Since bonds incur the extra expense of interest and other fees and expenses, purchases that have a short useful life are very often imprudent. In other words, your total cost does not justify the value the district receive.

Early Warning Radar System

In order to adequately determine whether opposition to a school tax measure is feasible or justifiable, facts are needed.

There are almost a thousand school and community college districts in California. It's very difficult to monitor what each district is up to from a distance. This is where you come in.

Any single voter will most likely have two (unified school and community college), but sometimes three, districts over which the voter has control. Monitoring your own districts is the most reasonable and best use of your valuable time.

There are also at least three stages that a typical bond process goes through before the governing board votes to put it on the ballot for voter approval. There are many tactics that can be used during these stages that will either keep a wasteful bond off the ballot or place restrictions on it. This is the only time that many of these tactics can be used.

See the District List of all the districts in California and the stage at which bond or parcel tax proposals are for the 2016 calendar year.


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