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Tuesday November 3, 2020 — California General Election
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County

City and County of San Francisco
Proposition J - 2/3 Approval Required

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Election Results

Passing

300,775 votes yes (74.43%)

103,315 votes no (25.57%)

Shall the City replace its 2018 Parcel Tax for the San Francisco Unified School District with a new tax that changes the annual tax rate from $320 per parcel to $288 per parcel, adjusted for inflation each year, and with an exemption for people age 65 or older, until June 30, 2038, for an estimated revenue of $48.1 million a year?

What is this proposal?

Pros & Cons — Unbiased explanation with arguments for and against

Information provided by League of Women Voters of San Francisco

The Question

Shall the City replace the 2018 Parcel Tax for the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) with a different tax that changes the annual tax rate from $320 per parcel to $288 per parcel, adjusted for inflation each year, and with an exemption for people age 65 or older for an estimated revenue of $48.1 million per year?

Note: This Pro/Con information is also available in Chinese and Spanish.

The Situation

Parcel taxes are a property tax paid by the owners of real estate. Unlike standard property taxes, they are not based on the value of the property. Parcel taxes can be based on the characteristics of a property or they can be a flat rate.

 

The beneficiary of this parcel tax, the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD), educates about 54,000 students a year and employs about 6,900 teachers.

 

In June 2018, a majority of San Francisco voters approved an annual parcel tax of $320 per parcel of taxable property (with annual adjustments for inflation) to provide funding to the SFUSD (Proposition G: 2018 School Parcel Tax). People age 65 or older before July 1 of the tax year are exempt from this tax if they own an interest in the property being taxed and if the property is where they live most of the time.

 

The 2018 School Parcel Tax passed with a simple majority, but a lawsuit was filed contending that it needed a two-thirds vote to pass, and the funds were frozen pending the outcome of the suit. If the lawsuit finds that the 2018 School Parcel Tax is invalid, then taxes collected so far would be returned to parcel owners. If the lawsuit finds that the 2018 School Parcel Tax is valid, then the taxes collected so far would be allocated to the SFUSD. No matter the outcome of the lawsuit, if the new Proposition J passes with a two-thirds majority, it would be enacted in place of the 2018 School Parcel Tax.

The Proposal

Proposition J would replace the 2018 School Parcel Tax (Proposition G), which was approved with 61% of the vote, with a new parcel tax that needs the approval of two-thirds (66.66%) of voters.

 

Proposition J would change the tax rate from $320 to $288 per parcel of taxable property beginning on July 1, 2021. This tax would be adjusted for inflation each year and, like the 2018 tax, would expire on June 30, 2038. People age 65 or older before July 1 of the tax year would be exempt from this tax if they own an interest in the property being taxed and if the property is where they live most of the time. Revenue from this parcel tax is estimated to be $48.1 million annually.

 

SFUSD could use the money collected through this tax for the same purposes as the 2018 School Parcel Tax, to:

 

 Increase salaries and benefits for teachers, paraeducators, and other SFUSD employees;

 Increase staffing and program funding at high-needs schools and community schools;

 Provide professional development;

 Invest in technology, including full support of digital teaching and learning tools for students, educators, and their families;

 Fund public charter schools; and

 Provide oversight to ensure funds are allocated only to these purposes.

 

A “YES” Vote Means: If you vote "yes," you want the City to replace the 2018 School Parcel Tax with a new tax that changes the annual tax rate from $320 per parcel to $288, beginning on July 1, 2021, adjusted for inflation each year, and with an exemption for people age 65 or older.

 

A “NO” Vote Means: If you vote “no,” you do not want to make this change.

Fiscal effect

Controller's statement: sfelections.sfgov.org/sites/default/files/Documents/candidates/2020Nov/Prop%20J%20-%20Parcel%20Tax%20Replacement_0.pdf

Supporters say

 San Francisco Unified School District will face a projected $148 million deficit in Fiscal Year 2021-22, a 16% reduction in the current budget. Without the parcel tax, these budget cuts would have a devastating impact on student learning and outcomes.

 San Francisco is one of the most expensive places to live in the country. Paying educators a living wage would help SFUSD attract, support, and retain high-quality teachers

 The funds are not controlled by the State of California, so funds would be spent in San Francisco to directly benefit the City’s students and teachers.

Opponents say

As a flat tax, this parcel tax would punish single occupancy property owners, while forfeiting an opportunity to collect more revenue on multiple occupancy parcels.

This measure results from teachers’ union salary negotiations, which provided solid increases over three years; this tax would provide an additional 2% increase. Voter referendums are not the best way to resolve contractual issues.

SFUSD already receives $53 million in sales tax, $40 million from two other parcel taxes, and $130 million from other special taxes.  

Details — Official information

YES vote means

A "YES" Vote Means: If you vote "yes," beginning on July 1, 2021, you want the City to replace the 2018 School Parcel Tax with a new tax that changes the annual tax rate from $320 per parcel to $288 per parcel, adjusted for inflation each year and with an exemption for people age 65 or older.

NO vote means

A "NO" Vote Means: If you vote "no," you do not want to make this change.

Summary

Ballot Simplification Committee

The Way It Is Now: San Francisco Unified School District (School District) educates about 54,000 students a year and employs about 6,900 teachers.

In June 2018, a majority of San Francisco voters approved an annual parcel tax to provide funding to the School District (2018 School Parcel Tax). As of July 1, 2020, this tax rate is $320 per parcel of taxable property, with an adjustment for inflation each year. The 2018 School Parcel Tax expires on June 30, 2038.

The School District can use the money collected through this tax to:

• Increase salaries and benefits for teachers and other School District employees;

• Increase staffing and funding at high-needs schools and community schools;

• Provide professional development;

• Invest in technology, including digital learning; and

• Fund public charter schools.

People age 65 or older before July 1 of the tax year are exempt from this tax if they own an interest in the property being taxed and if the property is where they live most of the time.

The 2018 School Parcel Tax has been challenged in court, and the money collected through this tax may or may not be available to the School District.

The Proposal: Proposition J would replace the 2018 School Parcel Tax, which was approved by a majority of voters, with a new parcel tax that needs the approval of two-thirds of voters.

Beginning on July 1, 2021, Proposition J would change the tax rate to $288 per parcel of taxable property. This tax would be adjusted for inflation each year and would expire on June 30, 2038.

People age 65 or older before July 1 of the tax year would be exempt from this tax if they own an interest in the property being taxed and if the property is where they live most of the time.

The School District could use the money collected through this tax for the same purposes as the 2018 School Parcel Tax.

Financial effect

City Controller Ben Rosenfield

Should the proposed measure be approved by the voters, in my opinion, it would generate tax revenues of approximately $48.1 million annually. Similar to the tax it would be replacing, the funds generated would be dedicated for teacher salaries, staffing and other purposes of the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) as specified in the measure.

Published Arguments — Arguments for and against

More information

News (3)

Proposition J - November 3, 2020 — October 6, 2020 San Francisco Public Press
SFUSD Tackles the Teacher Shortage — July 24, 2017 Bay City Beacon
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Who supports or opposes this measure?

Yes on Proposition J

Organizations (5)

Elected & Appointed Officials (0)
No on Proposition J
Organizations (0)
Elected & Appointed Officials (0)

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