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Alameda Mayoral Candidates Duck Hard Questions on Parcel Tax

Last week, after the Alameda Unified School District approved a resolution to put a $659/year (residential) parcel tax on the ballot in June, we asked the three self-declared Alameda candidates for Mayor – Frank Matarrese, Marie Gilmore, and Tony Daysog – whether or not they would endorse the tax in the context of two issues of broad interest to residents in the City. None of them directly responded to the questions.

Here is the e-mail we wrote to the candidates. Immediately below are their responses.

This message is being sent to the three self-declared Alameda Mayoral candidates, Frank Matarrese, Marie Gilmore and Tony Daysog….

As you well know by now, earlier this week AUSD passed a replacement tax, representing a 114% increase in the combined amount of Measures A and H for residential property owners. ($659/yr v. $309/year)

My questions for each of you, are, given the following:

1) California Redevelopment Association suit to block State re-allocation of local redevelopment funds to schools.

http://www.calredevelop.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Home&CONTENTID=6365&TEMPLATE=/CM/ContentDisplay.cfm

Superior Court for Sacramento County, California Redevelopment Association et al. v. Genest et al., Case No. 34-2009-80000359-CU-WM-GDS (CRA v. Genest)

All of you have generally been supportive of the redevelopment/tax increment financing mechanism in Alameda, most uniformly around the Alameda Cineplex/theater/Parking Garage.

Frank, on SunCal’s Measure B, you raised the issue of State taking away redevelopment money as being a financial problem for SunCal’s proposed development plan for Alameda Point.

Tony, you lent your name to the PtP endorser’s list.

Marie, you (belatedly) spoke out against Measure B.

Given this, do you support the Redevelopment’s association lawsuit to block the re-allocation of local redevelopment funds for schools?

Knowing that the redevelopment association is keeping money from the schools, do you endorse the parcel tax?

2) In a recent article, Dennis Green spoke about the “de facto segregation” of Alameda schools – largely White and Asian populations in East End, Bay Farm and Gold Coast elementary schools, and more “diversity” in the West-end schools, like Paden, Franklin, and Ruby Bridges. The publicly available enrollment data backs this up: http://www.action-alameda-news.com/ausd-enrollment-demographics/

AUSD’s master plan, approved on Feb 23rd, acknowledges the achievement gap between African-American / Hispanic and White / Asian students and talks about “Plan A” needing a parcel tax. However, the parcel tax ballot language makes no committent to allocate funds to address that gap. Indeed, the ballot language approved earlier this week doesn’t mention the achievement gap at all.

http://www.alameda.k12.ca.us/images/stories/pdfs/boemtg/boe022310masterplandocument.pdf

http://www.alameda.k12.ca.us/images/stories/pdfs/boemtg/boemeeting_031510_parceltax.pdf

Given this, do you plan to endorse the parcel tax as written, with no allocation specifically for addressing the documented achievement gap?

Do you think a parcel tax should such as that approved by the AUSD Board earlier this week set aside funds to address this achievement gap?

[The link to Dennis Green’s article was not included in our e-mail, but we provide it here.

Tony Daysog wrote back “Yes, I endorse the parcel measure. ”

Frank Matarrese directed us to a blog posting on his campaign website, which begins with “I wanted to share with you that I will be voting yes on the upcoming Alameda Unified School District parcel tax ballot measure this June. I urge you to do the same.” Later in the post, Mr. Matarrese wrote about not relying on State funding for the schools, but he did not speak to the issue of the California Redevelopment Lawsuit blocking the State legislature from re-directing money to K-12 schools.

Marie Gilmore did not respond.

14 comments to Alameda Mayoral Candidates Duck Hard Questions on Parcel Tax

  • Anonymous

    Action Alameda: great questions. Would be helpful for you to pose these to all Council Candidates as well.

    Are there any numbers that indicate which schools the out of district students are permitted to attend?

  • R. Cobre

    I am very disappointed by the endorsement by Matarrese, he of all people should know how Measure H has hurt the business community. He has had many meetings with them and the number one complained has been the burden of this parcel tax. Since Measure H is still in litigation and will most likely go all the way to the California Supreme Court, I think every member of the Alameda City Council should refrain from endorsing the new tax, since it is again a split roll and not uniform, which is illegal. This should also include Daysog who is running for Mayor and Bonta, who are running for City Council. I call on all of them, to stay neutral this time and not rubber stamp it again, like they did Measure H.

  • So far only Rob Bonta has declared for Alameda City Council. We noticed his name mentioned in a recent article in SF Weekly. ( http://www.sfweekly.com/2010-03-17/news/turning-the-tables/ ) Some people say the issue reference in the article is irrelevant to his candidacy, others say it speaks to questions of character.

    We’ve covered the demographics of Alameda’s elementary schools here:
    http://www.action-alameda-news.com/ausd-enrollment-demographics/

    As for out of district students, they are, by de facto, “allowed” to attend primarily West-end schools – Edison has none, and Franklin has 1. (Elementary schools.) Franklin school is the smallest capacity elementary school in AUSD. Some have argued that Edison and Franklin have no room, ergo, they can’t take inter-district students. Others might argue that some smaller schools need to be closed, or other adjustments need to be made (e.g. changing the grade boundaries between elementary, middle and high schools) to balance capacity across all our schools to either reduce the number of inter-district students (why should alameda parcel tax payers pay for kids from outside of Alameda?) or better balance out the distribution of inter-district kids across more schools.

    Dennis Green wrote about “de facto segregation” in AUSD schools in a recent contribution: http://www.action-alameda-news.com/2010/03/10/agendas-in-ausd-master-plan/

  • Given this, do you support the Redevelopment’s association lawsuit to block the re-allocation of local redevelopment funds for schools?

    Knowing that the redevelopment association is keeping money from the schools, do you endorse the parcel tax?

    Your assertion that redevelopment projects in Alameda is keeping monies from Alameda classrooms is false. Prpoerty taxes collected from Alameda do not pay for Alameda schools, the State of California is obligated to pay AUSD to maintain its schools.

  • A valiant attempt to stay “on message” Mike, but it’s not true. The state makes up the difference from what local property taxes don’t cover. Redevelopment projects take away local property taxes by redirecting “incremental” property tax revenue to pay back bonds.

    The bucket analogy explains it well – the State tops off the revenue limit with what local property taxes don’t cover: http://www.edsource.org/iss_fin_sys_revlimits.html

    This is the “guarantee” to fund schools.

    In Alameda County, 13 cents of every property tax dollar goes to local redevelopment agencies, 18 cents goes to cities, 13 cents goes to special districts, 15 cents goes to the county, and 41 cents goes to local schools.
    (Source: Alameda County Tax Assessor Annual Report, Page 9: http://www.acgov.org/assessor/annual_report.pdf)

    In Contra Costa County, Schools get 48%, Special Districts get 19%, the County gets 13%, Redevelopment Agencies get 12%, and Cities get 8%
    (Source: SF Chron Article: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/01/24/MNV7155VSC.DTL)

    Also from that same SF Chron article: “A drop in property tax revenue wallops the state, because it is obligated to make up any significant loss to the schools. The Legislative Analys’s Office projects the state will have to pony up almost $1.5 billion to K-14 schools over the next three years to compensate for declining property taxes.”

    The State of California is trying to keep it obligation to “top up” local school districts by re-allocating $2 billion worth of local redevelopment funds, and the California Redevelopment Association is suing to prevent that from happening. Leslie Little, who used to head up the development services department in Alameda, and controlled the CIC, Alameda’s local redevelopment agency, is on the Board of Directors of the California Redevelopment Association. Little has been shuffed to head-up the Economic Development department.

    It’s a long standing criticism that tax-increment financing – “redevelopment” – takes money from schools. That’s why the laws have been tweaked again and again to create “pass throughs” to local school districts. (See Tax Increment Financing and Economic Development:Uses, Structures and Impact ~ Craig L. Johnson (Editor), Joyce Y. Man (Editor) )

    Mike McMahon – when we identified the some-odd $3 million in the redevelopment pass-through Capital Improvement Funds and District Housing Funds in 2008, you denied that the Capital Improvement fund existed. You said something to the effect of “There’s money set aside for low-income housing, but that’s it.” You denied and it and denied it, almost right up to the point that the CIC issued a check for $1 million to AUSD to transfer the Capital Improvement fund balance at that time.

    And Mike McMahon – you spoke out in favor of SunCal’s Measure B, which relied on a $200 million redevelopment tax subsidy for SunCal’s project.

  • Not to mention: “Revenue limit funds combine property tax revenue and state aid to provide the bulk of revenue currently allocated to school districts.”

    Funding California Schools: The Revenue Limit System, Margaret Weston, March 2010, Public Policy Institute, Page 7

    http://www.ppic.org/main/publication.asp?i=921

  • You have proved my point. Even with 54 cents on the dollar foing local schools from local property taxes, AUSD will not receive one extra dollar of funding for our classrooms.

  • You have proved my point. Even with 54 cents on the dollar going to local schools from local property taxes, AUSD will not receive one extra dollar of funding for our classrooms.

  • Proved your point? How so? Please elaborate, what you wrote is not clear.

    If the revenue limit is not high enough, then our elected school district “leaders” should be pushing to fix that inequity. If the highly complex revenue limit calculation shorts Alameda, our elected “leaders” should be working on fixing that. The March 2010 PPIC report on revenue limits explains the vast disparity in per-pupil funding (below).

    If Property Tax + State Money is below the revenue limit, then property tax dollars that aren’t taken by redevelopment will go to the schools. Local property taxes into the bucket first, then topped up with State money. For a given year, Property Tax Dollars + Stolen Redevelopment Dollars + (reduced) State Money should be greater than Property Tax Dollars + (reduced) state money, ergo, more money for our classrooms.

    Until Property Tax Dollars + Stolen Redevelopment Dollars + (reduced) State Money is greater than the revenue limit, fixing the redevelopment problem will leave more money for classrooms. AUSD keeps saying we haven’t been fully funded to our revenue limit for years.

    BTW, Mike you outright lied when you said that local property taxes don’t go to Alameda schools.

    Perhaps we should give up on the State altogether – we can’t rely on them at all, right? – and become a basic aid district. Then we can have a parcel tax of $3,000 per residential unit or thereabouts? Then, yea! no more having to worry about fixing AUSD’s budget by June 30th when the State hasn’t resolved their own!

    From PPIC Report:
    Although revenue limits were designed to eventually provide equal funding per pupil in every district, large variations in revenue limit funds per pupil remain. For example, for small elementary districts (districts with fewer than 250 students), the highest revenue limit funding per pupil in 2005–2006 was $31,237, while the lowest funding per pupil was $4,727—a difference of $26,510 per pupil. This difference between the highest funds per pupil and the lowest is also substantial for other districts classified by type and size. Almost 60 percent of all students are in large unified districts, where the average funding level is $85 per student lower than the statewide average. A difference of this magnitude can have significant effects for large school districts. For example, Fresno Unified School District has revenue limit funds of $5,249 for each of its 71,697 students. If, instead, it was funded at the statewide average of $5,341 per student, its total funding would increase by $6.6 million.

  • Prior to Prop 13, local property taxes paid for schools directly. As your volumes of explanations have pointed out, the State now controls funding of schools through a revenue limit.

    AUSD’s revenue limit will not increase or decerease if property taxes go up or down or if redevelopment exist in the city or not. The only thing that changes is how much the State has pay for the revenue limit.

  • Mike – we went in these same circles back in 2008 on the last parcel tax…

    If the state is withholding money, and AUSD isn’t getting their full revenue limit amount, then the money that redevelopment takes is not available to offset the withholding from the State. Every time AUSD asks for a parcel tax, the District talks about how they aren’t getting their full revenue limit from the State. Well, they aren’t getting their full share of property taxes either due to redevelopment.

    In other words, redevelopment taking local property taxes aggravates the funding problem. In full RL years, a mix of parcel taxes and state money provides the full RL amount. In years where state funding drops, and the RL amount is not reached, the local District has less money than if redevelopment was NOT taking local property taxes.

    The entire point of the revenue limit system was to equalize funding across rich cities with lots of property tax revenue and poor cities with little property tax revenue. It’s equalized with state money – rich cities get less state money, poor cities get more.

    Redevelopment makes us artificially “poor” and in need of more state money by redirecting local property taxes to developer subsidies. Then the District pounces and asks for a parcel tax.

    In 2008, we challenged the AUSD board, and Measure H proponents to do something about redevelopment. They’ve done nothing. Lots of people talked about the RL inquity – other districts get more revenue limit per pupil then Alameda. You, the AUSD board, and parcel tax proponents have done nothing.

    The revenue limit doesn’t change as property taxes go up or down, and it doesn’t change if redevelopment takes more or less money. But it MIGHT change if you get off your duff and expend the energy you put into parcel taxes into increasing AUSD’s revenue limit figure.

  • Thanks for the article. Just for the record, below please find my full response to question posed by Action Alameda, on whether I support the upcoming parcel measure (“Will you endorse the AUSD parcel measure?”. For more information about my candidacy, please visit my site at http://www.daysog.com

    At my site, you can see me give a speech in support of the parcel tax, on the night the school board discussed the proposed Master Plan for AUSD. All the best . . .

    – Tony Daysog

    Action Alameda to Daysog: “Will You Endorse the AUSD Parcel Tax?”

    “Yes, I endorse the upcoming parcel tax
    measure wholeheartedly. Our schools need
    the funding because of the dramatic cuts
    made by Sacramento legislators.

    “The fact of the matter is that when
    prospective residents and/or businesses
    look for places to locate, the first question
    on their mind is, ‘How good are the schools?’
    So, we need the best possible school
    district if we hope to be the progressive,
    world-class city we are striving to be.”

  • I’m afraid Tony shows just how out of touch he is with the current Zeitgeist. Depending on when you bought your house in Alameda, especially between 2002-08, and where, it might be worth as much as 40% less today. Prices dropped 40% in the early ’90s, and took four years to recover. So we’re not so much “striving to be a world class city” these days as keeping our heads above water.

    I worked with Ron Cowan’s Doric Development for seven years, and learned a lot about residential and commercial property values. We’re in a depressed residential housing market, and commercial is about to collapse completely, perhaps taking a famous local bank down with it. Retail is hemmoraging, and many businesses on Park and on Webster are closing.

    Most sensible folks want their government and their schools to be PRUDENT with their resources, do a better job of management. (The City spends hundreds of thousands of dollars, for example, subsidizing WABA, PSBA and the Chamber of Commerce, none of which gets much support from its members.) Candidates recycling themselves have not shown much leadership in the past.

    When I interviewed Trustee McMahon, I got the curious impression that he had some personal interest in supporting Measure B, since he just assumed SunCal would do right by the schools, and no one else was that glib about it.

    Dennis Green

  • For the record, Tony Daysog sent two responses.

    In the first, he wrote the quote that we used in the article.

    In the second, he copied more than a dozen other media outlets and reporters in his response, evidently having an afterthought that replying to our inquiry gave him opportunity to boost his media exposure.

    We used the first quote because the second one – the one he posted here – was clearly calculated for media effect.

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