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San Diego Leaders Tout Change To Prop. 13 That Would Boost School Funding

A proponent of amending Proposition 13 to increase tax revenue from commercia...

Photo by Megan Burks

Above: A proponent of amending Proposition 13 to increase tax revenue from commercial and industrial properties holds a sign that reads "Schools and Communities First," Aug. 14, 2018.

A statewide measure on the November ballot that would undo part of California’s famous Prop. 13 and provide billions more for schools was already going to be a hot-button issue. That was before the pandemic brought massive cuts to state and local budgets.

Educators, community advocates and elected officials met virtually Wednesday to voice their support for the measure, dubbed “Schools and Communities First,” which would eliminate the property tax protection Prop. 13 has given large corporations since 1978.

“This measure simply closes a loophole that has been exploited by some of the wealthiest corporations in the world,” said County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, who attended the virtual meeting.

Fletcher is among many who say Prop. 13, which limits the yearly increase of a property’s assessed value for the purposes of property taxes, was meant for individual homeowners, not some of the state’s wealthiest corporations. He says families have paid the price.

“It’s a burden that has fallen on the backs of our students. It’s a burden that has fallen on the backs of our communities and our parents and our neighborhoods,” he said. “And it is simply time that we right this wrong.”

Reported by Joe Hong , Video by Andi Dukleth

If the ballot measure passes, owners of commercial properties worth more than $3 million would have to pay property taxes based on current assessed value, not on the original sale price, which is what Prop. 13 mandates. Businesses with 50 or fewer employees would be exempt from this new requirement.

According to Fletcher, this measure could generate an additional $150 million a year for San Diego County, revenue that is needed now more than ever, Fletcher said.

“The reality is the inequities in our society were not created by coronavirus, they were not created by the social unrest, but they have become highlighted because of it,” he said.

If voters approve the measure, Fletcher said he would propose using the new revenue to boost funding for both schools and public health.

It would generate about $300 million annually for San Diego County’s school districts and charter schools, according to Richard Barrera, vice president of the San Diego Unified School District. San Diego Unified would get about $60 million, Barrera added.

This funding would help the district cope with the devastating aftermath of the pandemic, he said.

Barrera went on to say there is not enough in the district’s current budget to cover the costs of reopening its schools in the face of the pandemic. He said a federal stimulus could help the district reopen in the new school year, but revenues from the bond measure would give schools a longer-term solution.

“That is the money that would allow us permanently to have the nurses, the counselors, the small class size, the cleaning and hygiene that we need in our schools,” he said.

Barrera said if the measure passes, San Diego Unified would see the money in the 2021-2022 school year.

Kisha Borden, president of the San Diego Education Association, also spoke in favor of the ballot measure.

“This initiative will provide communities the help they need now and into the future,” she said .”Schools and Communities First will be critical to San Diego’s recovery.”

Listen to this story by Joe Hong.

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Joe Hong
Education Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksAs an education reporter, I'm always looking for stories about learning. My favorite education stories put a student's face on bigger policy issues. I regularly sift through enrollment data, test scores and school budgets, but telling student-centered stories is my top priority.

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