BY DAVE PRICE
Daily Post Editor
Perhaps the sneakiest thing on Tuesday’s ballot is a proposition that is getting almost zero attention from the news media.
It’s called Prop. 13, but it has nothing to do with the landmark taxpayer protection measure of 1978 that had the same name.
This Prop. 13 is downright diabolical. It looks like a statewide school bond measure, raising $15 billion. But because of maneuvering of Gov. Gavin Newsom, the measure’s fine print has two sneaky provisions.
1. It would eliminate developer fees that school districts normally get for apartment and condo projects located within a half mile of a major transit stop. In other words, if you pass the new Prop. 13, school districts all over the state will be shorted out of money they would normally get to build classrooms.
The loss of developer fees was enough for the Los Altos School District to hold off on supporting Prop 13, even though it is a school bond issue.
Randall Kenyon, LASD’s assistant superintendent of business services, told the Post that the Prop 13 provisions could mean the loss of revenue from projects such as a 632-unit apartment complex at 400 San Antonio Road, which is bringing in $1.2 million in developer fees. A similar housing project is in the works within district boundaries at the corner of San Antonio Road and California Street, he noted.
If you opposed Senate Bill 50, the recently-defeated measure that would have increased development along transit corridors and in “jobs rich” cities like Palo Alto, then you should take a close look at Prop 13 because it incentivizes the same type of development. This is a sweetheart deal for the developers who should pay their own way.
2. This bond measure also has a provision that raises by 60% the amount of debt school districts can take on. That will mean more local school bond measures in the future, resulting in higher property taxes, since the bonds are repaid with taxes.
There are probably good arguments for raising the debt limit of school districts, but the backers of Prop 13 don’t even want to have that debate. Instead of putting the debt question on the ballot as its own separate proposition, they decided to sneak it into a bond issue that will likely pass since it is appearing in a primary that will likely have a heavy Democratic turnout.
Gov. Newsom, if you want to allow school districts to have heavier debts, let’s have an open and transparent discussion about that. Don’t try to slip it by the voters.
As a matter of principle, I think that whenever a ballot measure contains sneaky provisions, voters should reject it, even if they favor the idea of the bond measure itself.
A “yes” vote simply rewards political tricksters who want to sneak things by the voters. A “no” vote sends people like Newsom a strong message — no tricks if you want our money.
Editor Dave Price’s column appears on Mondays. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.