California law allows school districts to assess parcel taxes on local residents if they can secure a two-thirds approval from voters. Parcel taxes are a non ad valorum tax, a flat fee on each parcel rather than on the assessed value of property.
The ballot proposal prepared by the school district governing board describes the purpose the money will be used for. The Legislature has at times considered a resolution to ask voters to decide on a proposed Constitutional amendment that would lower the parcel tax approval threshold to 55%. If two thirds of each house approves the measure, the state’s voters would then decide by majority whether to change the threshold.
From 1983 through November 2010, voters approved 289 parcel taxes in 542 elections. In the current fiscal climate, an increasing number of districts are attempting to pass parcel taxes. In 2010, 38 districts placed parcel taxes on the ballot. In all of 2009, 31 districts did so. In all of 2006, only 13 districts did so.
Parcel Tax Elections - 1983 through November 2010
Data: EdSource 1/11
Statewide analysis 2001 through June 2009
Although all districts can propose a parcel tax to their community, they are relatively rare in most of the state. Between 2001 and June 2009, out of roughly 980 California school districts, 132 conducted parcel tax elections and 83 districts passed them. Only seven of those districts were located in Southern California, while 66 were within the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area. The districts that had successful elections generally serve fewer low-income students than the typical California school district. They are also disproportionately small, with 66 (80%) of them serving fewer than 10,000 students. In 2008-09, those districts that had parcel taxes reported total revenues of about $250 million, according to Ed-Data.
Page last updated January 2011