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California budget stalemate continues

To recap, Repubs proposed this on Monday:

…GOP leaders released a $22 billion package of their own that called for deep cuts to education and social service programs, as well as raiding other pots of money voters approved for early child development and mental illness. Democrats contend the Republican’s plan to cut more than $10 billion from schools amounted to shutting down every school in the state for two months or increasing class sizes by 40 percent. [Read the entire AP story here.]

The state is facing a budget deficit which is now estimated to be something over $40 billion. If nothing is done, it is looking like California will run out of cash to pay its bills some time in February. Dems have a counterproposal, which wriggles around the tyranny of the minority (a solid majority of California lawmakers are Democrats), caused by state laws which require two-thirds vote of both state legislative bodies to pass any new taxes. A bit about the Dem proposal from the Chronicle:

State lawmakers are expected to vote today on an $18 billion budget, put forth Wednesday by Democrats, that contains more than $9 billion in added revenue and requires only a simple majority vote of the Legislature to be approved. The move boxes in Republicans, who have just enough votes to block lawmakers from approving tax and budget bills that require a two-thirds majority in the Democratic-controlled Legislature.

But a spokesperson for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has said he will not sign off on the Dem plan without some changes. More up-to-the-minute budget news at Calitics.

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State Republicans propose $22 billion in budget cuts

Despite having strong majorities in both the California Assembly and the Senate, California Democrats have little power to take action to make budget numbers line up. Any new taxes in the state require two-thirds vote of both legislative bodies, so staunchly anti-tax state Repubs can block any legislation they like. It’s pretty much the reverse of majority rules.

Republican cuts in the package presented today:

* Cutting monthly payments for supplemental security income recipients – to $830 from $870 for singles, and to $1,407 from $1,524 from couples

* Cutting nearly $10 billion from K-12 education over the next 18 months

* Cutting $6 billion from higher education funding

More state budget crisis details here and here and here and here.

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Southern California teacher sells ad space on student tests

Crazy world, yes indeed. But one Southern California high school teacher has found a new way to pay for the copying services his school no longer pays for.

Math teacher Tom Farber began selling ads on tests and quizzes this fall when the district cut its per teacher copy budget from $500 to $316. Local businesses can insert ads for services, and some parents have paid for inspirational quotes.

The State of California cut more than $4 billion in education funding for this year school year and is poised to make even deeper mid-year cuts, to the tune of $2.5 billion.

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For Alameda: Economic news from around the state

Los Angeles Times: Foreclosures, delinquencies skyrocketing among ‘prime’ borrowers

Los Angeles Times: Shopping malls are running on empty

The Sacramento Bee: Demand for social services rises as funding falls

The Sacramento Bee: 3 California budget practices fall short. More Dan Walters.

The Mercury News: State legislators call off Sunday session as budget impasse deepens

And even more state budget crisis news.

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Hey, Alameda: Budget crisis news from around the state

Perhaps you’ve been distracted by the failing of major banking institutions/insurance companies/car companies, to notice that California’s budget is looking to be $28 billion short in the next 18 months. What might the impact be around the state? Here’s some headlines:

By capping enrollment in the state college systems, the community college system may become even more impacted. And more cuts to K-12 schools seem inevitable. Look for cuts to social services, to city services, and parks.

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Rob Siltanen: “Defend Measure H”

Blogger/government teacher/Alameda parent Rob Siltanen has a post up today at School 94501/94502 detailing 1. the nasty state of California’s budget and 2. the importance of Measure H funds to the Alameda Unified District’s budget. Highlights:

…AUSD has very little control over its revenues. The overwhelming majority of AUSD revenues come from the state. So when the state economy is in a recession and the state budget is in free fall — as happened for 08-09 and as will happen again for the 09-10 budget cycle — AUSD’s revenues will drop precipitously. Even though “the district” and “the Board” have the responsibility of dealing with the resulting budget crisis, the situation is not of their making.

Furthermore, unlike a business that can balance its books by closing divisions and operations, AUSD may not cut costs by, for example, shutting down its highly unprofitable “special ed division” or suspending any of its other services for high needs (and therefore more expensive) students. AUSD must educate all students wishing to enroll in public schools in Alameda.

He goes on to detail the current state budget crisis and its impact locally:

The state budget is in such dire straights that the Governor has called a Special Session of the legislature to enact additional budget cuts for the CURRENT SCHOOL YEAR (”mid-year cuts”). Among the “highlights” of the Governor’s proposal to cut 2.5 billion more from the education budget for this school year – yes, those would be cuts for the year for which school districts were required to approve a budget last June — are (1) retroactively eliminating the COLA for 08-09 and (2) retroactively reducing revenue limit funding (i.e., general funding) by 1.79 billion. Even more ominously, this draconian Special Session plan only addresses 11 billion of the state’s projected shortfall. The Governor projects another 13 billion deficit for 09-10. That means that in January we will hear about even more cuts ON TOP OF THESE for the next, fast-approaching budget cycle. If the legislature is unable or unwilling to act in the Special Session (which I think is likely), the whole problem of a 24 billion deficit would be carried into 09-10.

The whole post is here. And, yes, it is long, but is a clearly-articulated, reality-based portrait of the current state budget crisis and its local impact.

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More California budget cuts proposed for the current year

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced additional cuts to the state budget today. To bridge an estimated $11.2 billion budget gap, he’s proposing to raise $4.7 billion with new taxes (including raising the state sales tax by 1.5 cents, taxing services like car repair and veterinary visits, and raising taxes on drinks served in bars and restaurants). Cuts to K-12 education funding in the current school year total $2.5 billion under the new plan. No word yet on what cuts will look like for 2009-10. “A drastic situation like this,” Schwarzenegger said in a news conference, “takes drastic measures.” State Republicans say they’ll fight the increase in taxes.

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No fair property taxes in Alameda

This week in “Life on the Island,” the column I write for the Alameda Journal, I discuss the legacy of Proposition 13, which leaves newer property owners, of both homes and businesses, paying property taxes much higher—sometimes three or four or five times higher—than those who bought earlier. (Property tax information is public and you can look it up by parcel or address here.)

Measure H, the Alameda school tax passed in June, assesses businesses based on square footage, which is, to my mind, closer to fair than a flat per parcel tax, which taxes the owners of mansions and hovels identically, the owners of large tracts of land the same as those who own a small parcel.

A Prop. 13 supporter once described the 1978 law to me as a ‘double-edged’ sword, by which I think he meant it was bad when you first purchase a property, but gets better over time. But Prop. 13 has created a system of taxation so inequitable that it has turned out to be a very bad thing over time, not just because of its pronounced lack of fairness but, too, because it fails to raise enough money to support the infrastructure and services our state requires.

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Second parcel tax lawsuit in Alameda

A second lawsuit was filed Monday in Alameda County Court against Measure H, the school parcel tax that passed with the support of just over two-thirds of Alameda voters in early June.

The first suit, filed last week by Pleasanton-based lawyer David Brillant on behalf of George J. Borikas is thought to have been supported and funded by several dozen local businesses. The second was filed by the high-powered law firm, Reed Smith, on behalf of local developer, John Beery.

School Board President Bill Schaff:

We’re sad to see another lawsuit. We would like to try to find some common ground with the business community…we still don’t have a state budget, we know we’ll still have an underfunding issue and we have to find some resolution that is good for our kids and that also can work for the business community.

You can look at both cases here, by entering the case numbers. Borikas is VG08405316 and Beery is RG08405984.

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Alameda’s Measure H lawsuit. Devil details.

As you have likely heard (Michele Ellson‘s got a link to the lawsuit) attorney David Brillant has filed suit on behalf of George Borikas in Alameda County Court against Measure H, the Alameda school parcel tax which passed in June 2008.

The suit alleges that Measure H violates the portion of California’s Education Code which stipulates that school parcel taxes must be ‘uniform’ and allows for seniors and people with disabilities to be exempted from them. Here’s the California code:

50079. (a) Subject to Section 4 of Article XIIIA of the California Constitution, any school district may impose qualified special taxes within the district pursuant to the procedures established in Article 3.5 (commencing with Section 50075) and any other applicable procedures provided by law.
(b) (1) As used in this section, “qualified special taxes” means special taxes that apply uniformly to all taxpayers or all real property within the school district, except that “qualified special taxes” may include taxes that provide for an exemption from those taxes for taxpayers 65 years of age or older or for persons receiving Supplemental Security Income for a disability, regardless of age.
(2) “Qualified special taxes” do not include special taxes imposed on a particular class of property or taxpayers.

And here’s the complaint, which talks about the requirement that parcel taxes be ‘uniform’ and, too, raises what seems to be the issue of seniors or people with disabilities having to actively opt out of the tax:

The qualified special tax set forth in the Election Order and in Measure H, as approved by the registered voters of the District, is not consistent with the uniformity requirement as set forth in Government Code Section 50079. Additionally, the special tax set forth in the Election Order and in Measure H contains exemptions from the qualified special tax yet imposes additional requirements for taxpayers to meet the exeptions that are not contained in Government Code Section 50079. For these reasons, the District’s qualified special tax against residential, commercial and industrial property, as set forth in Measure H, are not a valid or lawful lien on the real property of Borikas herinabove described, and any attempt by defendants to collect unpaid assessments from Borikas would be unlawful and improper.

For some background on why districts rely on parcel taxes as a way of funding education, I found this useful and, too, at least one area district, Albany, has a parcel tax (passed in 2005) with a structure similar to Alameda’s: it’s $250 per parcel and $.05 per square foot nonresidential. Other local parcel taxes with variable levels of taxation include Emeryville, Berkeley, and Piedmont. A quick look at some area parcel taxes and how they handle exemptions for seniors/people with disability/low income people, reveals they operate much like Alameda’s. Here’s San Francisco, Oakland, and Emeryville.