Is the parcel tax vote threshold too high?

Jack O’Connell, the state superintendent of public instruction (pictured far right), and Vince Matthews, Oakland’s state administrator, have called for a change in election law that would allow school parcel tax measures — like construction bonds — to pass with 55 percent of the vote, rather than 67 percent. 

Measure N, the failed parcel tax for Oakland teachers, netted about 61 percent approval.

The below letter by O’Connell and Matthews was published in the Tribune today. Would you support the kind of change they’re proposing?

Thanks for N support

WE’D LIKE TO thank the majority of Oakland voters who supported Measure N to increase teacher’ salaries and improve programs in the Oakland Unified School District.

That in these difficult financial times 61 percent of voters were willing to support their schools by supporting a parcel tax to raise $12 million is testament to the value placed on public education by the vast majority of Oakland residents.

The vote also supports our belief that the voter threshold for passage of school parcel taxes should be reduced to a 55 percent majority. Three of the four parcel tax proposals that were not successful on local ballots in California on Election Day — including Oakland’s — won the support of an overwhelming majority of the voters, but failed to meet the two-thirds approval requirement.

Eight years ago, California voters wisely agreed to lower the required vote threshold for school bonds from two-thirds to 55 percent. As a result, 77 general obligation bond issues were passed on Election Day, raising $21 billion to improve school facilities.

It is a shame that because of the two-thirds vote requirement, Oakland teachers and schools won’t also benefit from new revenues in a time of threatened cuts to our public schools.

Jack O’Connell,

State Superintendent of Public Instruction

Vincent Matthews, State Administrator, Oakland Unified School District

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • John

    Great! A reduction from the current 67% to a 55% voter majority to effect passage of school parcel tax measures will make it infinitely easier for Oakland’s renter majority who don’t pay property parcel taxes to “give back to the community” by forcing those who do to pay more, a lot more!

    Oakland’s renter majority can feel rest assured that their proxy altruism won’t back fire in higher rents imposed by Landlords needing more money to help offset their renter majority imposed property tax increase. This is a happy consequence of Oakland’s 2003 ‘renter majority’ passed rent control measure, making it generally impossible for a Landlord to increase rent to offset a tax increase or most anything else.

    Power to the people! Everyone else shut your mouths, open your wallets and no one gets hurt during these historically difficult and worsening economic times. You greedy property tax payers need to remember that “it’s not about you, it’s about the children.”

    Let me take this opportunity to thank Oakland’s renter majority for what I anticipate to be an increase of its clout and support for public education in the Oakland. Ooh! I think I need a hankie and perhaps a plastic lined waste basket. I think I’m going to…

  • Pingback: » ENR Archive » December 03, 2008()

  • Terry

    Dear John:

    I live outside California, but I think it’s safe to say that landlords everywhere generally have a lot in common.

    Some years ago I was a renter faced with an upcoming property tax millage renewal of substantial size.

    I went to the leader of a landlord organization and offered to join his organization in opposing this property tax renewal, which amounted to over $2,000 per year on a $250,000 home. I was willing to put all my non-workplace effort into turning out renters to vote against the property tax.

    All I asked was that the landlord organization agree to ask their members to split evenly (50-50) the property tax reduction with their tenants if the property tax were defeated by voters.

    A week later the leader told me that his members did not support the proposal.

    A lot of renters know from experience that lower property taxes do not result in lower rents. Would YOU vote against a property tax on the ballot if you knew it would not make a dime’s difference?