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LA Unified Proposed Parcel Tax

LAUSD’s punishing parcel tax proposal

America’s most dysfunctional school district has stepped in it again. The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), apparently coming to the shocking realization that there was no way they could pay for the horrible deal they just cut with the unions, has hurriedly placed on the ballot for June a new property tax that leaves no Los Angeles taxpayer unscathed.

That grassroots taxpayer interests would be opposed to the new levy is no surprise. But several business organizations, usually more tolerant of higher government spending — particularly for education — have had enough. Groups as diverse as the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, the Valley Industry and Commerce Association (VICA) and the L.A. County Business Federation (BizFed) have all announced their opposition. None of these organizations is anti-education. In fact, all are pro-education as long as there is a demonstrable improvement in the education product we are all paying for. On this score, LAUSD falls way short.

At the core of the broad-based opposition is the abject lack of long overdue reforms at LAUSD.

The list of reasons to oppose the tax is long.  First, taxpayers would be wasting millions of dollars on a special election.  The LAUSD Board voted unanimously to put the tax increase before the voters in a special election to be held on June 4, 2019. The cost of the special election is $12.5 million.

The tax would add hundreds of dollars to tax bills and rents and would do so in a convoluted manner. Rather than a flat tax on every parcel — which would be bad enough — the proposed tax increase would be 16 cents per square foot of building improvements on properties within the district.

That’s $160 for every 1,000 square feet. Property owners (and tenants) should be sitting down when they do the math on this one.

Seniors are ostensibly exempt from the tax, but not from rent increases. Properties used as the principal residence of owners who are age 65 or older, or on disability, are eligible for an exemption, but there’s no exemption from the higher rents or higher prices that result from the tax hike. Also, seniors should be very cautious about the so-called “exemption,” as in many instances it’s necessary to re-apply for them every year.

Like many proposed tax increases and bond proposals, LAUSD’s proposed tax comes with phony oversight. The measure says the money must be used for the “support” of schools, but that is so general that all the money could be spent on pensions and retiree benefits, with not one cent going into classrooms.

But the biggest reason all Los Angeles voters should vote no on Measure EE is that this bailout would remove the pressure for needed reforms. Before the teachers’ strike, L.A. County was warning the district that it could be taken over due to projected financial shortfalls within a three-year period. That created pressure for budget reform. But instead of reform, LAUSD wants a massive tax increase.

We all want quality schools. But voters need to fully comprehend what they would be getting if Measure EE passes.

More importantly, they need to know what they would not be getting.

Jon Coupal is the president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association By JON COUPAL |PUBLISHED: March 24, 2019 at 12:00 pm | (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

In a more recent article there could be legal challenges: here is an excerpt:

The original language, as approved by the Board of Education, defines what can be taxed as “habitable main square footage as measured by the Los Angeles County Assessor and as maintained in the Assessor’s electronic reports.”

But a different definition appears on the ballot: “the square footage of all buildings or structures erected on or affixed to the land.”

The difference could be key, according to some business leaders who became aware of the change. In their view, the new version would suddenly include parking structures, which are sometimes as large in square footage as the office buildings they serve.

Under either scenario, each eligible square foot would be taxed at 16 cents a year for 12 years.

Under the original language, a property owner with a 1,500-square-foot home would be responsible for an annual property tax increase of $240. Under the revised language, if that property owner has a 300-square-foot garage, there apparently would be an additional annual fee of $48. Other taxable structures could include permanent storage sheds.

Under the revised language, commercial property owners could take a big hit. A complex or building with a million square feet of office space already would owe $160,000 a year. A parking structure of similar size would double that bill.
Link to the full article: https://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-edu-lausd-parcel-tax-mistake-20190502-story.html