On behalf of California's K-14 students, Educate Our State has submitted a ballot initiative, tentatively titled "The Protection of Local Schools Revenues" to California's Attorney General, which will give equal protection to property taxes in each county allocated to public education. In 2004 Prop 1A, The Protection of Local Government Revenues, which was passed by 83.7% of the voters, protected ALL local property tax revenues except those allocated to public education. Since 2004, the State has been taking public education's share of the property taxes collected in every county and spending it on the state's non-education-related debts. Last year this amounted to $7 Billion per year being taken in property taxes that were allocated to our schools. Though the net effect is revenue neutral, it is literally siphoning off more and more stable revenue (local property taxes) that was destined for the schools of California's poorest children. Over $230 million of school-allocated property taxes are taken out of Sacramento County each year to satisfy the State’s obligations.
Sacramento County allocates about 23% of its property tax directly to schools, which is less than the state average, so its Educational Revenue Augmentation Fund is proportionately larger than most counties' at about 27%. The county assessor's 2012 annual report shows, as so many do, the total amount going to schools, 49.6%. This is incorrect. The auditor-controller's ERAF worksheets (also online), show $258 million transferred into ERAF for both the schools and community colleges, and $186 million head out again for the VLF Swap, plus $43 million for the Triple Flip, so only $29 million actually remains to be distributed to the schools. So 26% would be the right percentage for the assessor to show.
As a result of these outflows, Sacramento County schools are extremely dependent upon the State's disbursements, and vulnerable to its deferrals. Sacramento Unified, for example, finished last school year with 36% of its annual state aid ($60 million) still unpaid -- appalling, but an improvement over the June before last, when almost half of its state aid hadn't been disbursed when the school year ended ($80 million). Particularly frustrating is the fact that almost 18% of total ERAF would have gone to Sacramento Unified -- $46 million of the amounts above that it shouldn't have had to wait for.
In Sacramento County generally, it's also evident how the increased dependence on state aid vs. local property tax punishes poorer districts.
· River Delta Unified, Galt Union High, and Robla Elementary have about 2,000 students each.
· River Delta has higher property taxes (it is still revenue limit, but may be tipping over), so it was waiting for less than $100,000 from the state at the end of last year.
· Robla was waiting for almost $2,000,000, and Galt for $2,600,000.
· Yet looking at their 2021 LCFF targets, Robla (96% LI/EL) needs $12,000 to educate each child; Galt (55%) $11,100; and River Delta (58%) $10,400.
· So the school that needs the least gets the most … while the others add the challenge of cash management to their educational hurdles.
In a year when budgets had already been dramatically cut, these cash flow shortfalls harmed the school districts and schoolchildren of Sacramento County even more.
It’s time to grant Sacramento County schools and community colleges the same protection of their stable, reliable, local property taxes that cities, the county, and special districts (mosquito abatement, lighting, flood, libraries, parks, hospitals) have enjoyed for a decade.
ERAF worksheets are at the bottom of the page:
Assessor's Annual report is linked below her picture at:
LA County Taxpayers' Guide (go to URL and click on link at left of page, then select 2012-13)
Taxpayers deserve to know where their local property taxes are going. Children deserve equal protection under the law. Our state constitution says the education of children should be our first priority. Let's begin by providing equal protection to public education.
We have until April 15th to gather signatures and qualify this for the November ballot. Will you give us a few hours of your time? You can sign on at www.YesForEducation.org or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.