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California Voters Reject Revamp To Property Tax System

Speaker 1: 00:00 After over a week of ballot counting in California, it appears that state proposition 15 really has been defeated. The yes on prop 15 campaign got only about 48% of the vote that initiative would have allowed property tax increases on industrial and commercial property worth over $3 million other business. And all residential property would have seen no increase. Prop 15 was expected to raise upwards of $12 billion a year for local governments and school districts. And it's money that San Diego unified was hoping for. Joining me is vice-president of the San Diego unified school board, Richard Berrera and Richard, welcome to the program. Speaker 2: 00:42 Thank you, Maureen. Speaker 1: 00:44 Now you were holding out hope that the final tallies would find prop 15 had succeeded. What would that have meant Speaker 2: 00:52 District? Well, it would've meant at full, uh, implementation, which would have taken three years. It would've meant upwards of $70 million a year for our district, which would have really been significant. It would have allowed us to keep class sizes low, uh, to increase the number of counselors, nurses, um, increased professional development for teachers in our district. So it would have had a significant positive impact. Speaker 1: 01:21 Now was the district counting on that money to fill in the budget gaps caused by the pandemic and school shut down? Speaker 2: 01:28 No, you know, and, and so, you know, we've been clear that the issues, the financial issues caused by the pandemic really have, have to be addressed by federal stimulus. You know, the federal government is the only entity that has the ability, uh, to put the kind of resources back into our state government, into our schools that's necessary, you know, for us to get through this crisis. And, you know, we, as, you know, most people around the country, we continue to be frustrated that, um, we have yet to see action after the initial cares act, you know, package in the spring. Um, but we think that the current Congress should be able to work out an agreement. You know, the federal government cannot just simply, uh, you know, fail to act, um, because you know, schools and state and local governments are going to see real crisis in the spring. Richard, Speaker 1: 02:25 Why do you think voters rejected prop 15? It's a measure that would have helped schools and would not have raised taxes on most Speaker 2: 02:34 Unfortunately, Marine, what we saw is, you know, just a deluge of misleading, uh, advertisement from the very large commercial property owners that, you know, would have seen their taxes go up and, you know, but go up to a level that would be equitable with what, uh, other businesses and, and residential property owners already pay. So, you know, they spent over a hundred million dollars. They made voters, I think, believe that residential property taxes were going to go up or small business taxes, we're going to go up. None of which was true early on voters were supporting prop 15, but the late voters that, you know, frankly were more exposed, you know, to this kind of campaign of misleading statements, um, you know, tends to break the other way. What we also have to keep in mind Marine is, you know, I think five years ago, certainly 10 years ago, the idea that we would have been able to do any reform of prop 13 would have been considered impossible. And the fact that we got this close 48% of voters willing to make changes in prop 13, precisely to support schools and community services, it means that we're getting closer and closer. You know, this has been a battle that's been going on really for 42 years. Um, we think that, you know, eventually we will see reform of prop 13 and we will see other measures, you know, statewide and locally, uh, to put more money into public schools because voters understand how important it is that we invest again in our public schools Speaker 1: 04:14 Now with help from the state and federal governments still unknown, where do San Diego Unified's budget concerns stand now? Speaker 2: 04:24 Well, you know, if, if we were not having to deal with the additional costs, you know, created by the pandemic, which are substantial. And, um, and if we weren't seeing the kind of, you know, projected decline in state revenue as a result of the economic downturn, you know, we would have been in, in a, in a solid budget position. Um, but in this case, you know, with these dual challenges of reduced revenue at the state level and increased expenses, you know, Marine, it is absolutely the case that we need to see significant federal investment. We are very encouraged by what we've seen and heard so far from president elect by, as we continue to be very hopeful that as California voters over the next few election cycles have the ability to consider measures that would increase revenue for public schools that will, that we will be successful. I think we're about to enter a new era of investment in public education across the country in California, and here in San Diego. Speaker 1: 05:31 One district plan to reduce costs is to offer some teachers and incentive to retire. But as a voice of San Diego reports, those retirements will occur before the winter semester is over. How are schools going to handle that? Speaker 2: 05:49 Uh, an early retirement incentive always saves money for the district, but in this case, knowing that, you know, have to be preparing which we are to bring our students back onto campus, that that can happen, you know, in January. But we think that this is a good time as well, you know, to offer, uh, to, to our staff. Look, if you just are not comfortable, you know, with the, all of the adjustments that educators have had to make through this pandemic, we know that there's some people that just aren't comfortable with that transition and, um, offering the early retirement as a way, um, you know, to allow those, uh, educators, uh, you know, to, to go on, be rewarded for what they've done in their careers, but also offer opportunities to, you know, to newer, younger educators that are, um, ready, uh, to, to meet this, uh, meet this challenging moment, Speaker 1: 06:46 Reference a San Diego Unified's phased in plans to reopen schools. Now, San Diego County is right now in the purple tier, the state's most restrictive COVID tier. What does that do to San Diego's phased in plans for reopening? Speaker 2: 07:04 It, it, it halts our phased in a plan. So what we have right now is we've got limited in-person instruction for our most vulnerable elementary school students. But beyond that, when we talk about being able to bring back all of our elementary school students, and then all of our middle and high school students, we will not be able to do that. Marine as long as San Diego County remains in this purple tier. Speaker 1: 07:31 So are you revamping the plans in any way? Are you going to expand phase one? Uh, and Speaker 2: 07:37 Yeah, exactly. So we are, we are working right now to expand phase one. Um, we've got, uh, the most comprehensive health and safety measures of any school districts anywhere in the country. Speaker 1: 07:51 Okay. Then I've been speaking with Richard Barrera. He is vice president of the San Diego unified school board. And Richard, thank you. Speaker 2: 07:59 Thanks so much, Maureen.

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California voters rejected a proposal to partially dismantle the state’s 42-year-old cap on property taxes, a move that would have raised taxes for many businesses in a pandemic-hobbled economy.
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