by Kimberly Rivers

krivers@timespublications.com

 Statewide: Prop. 13 (2020) — a case of déjà vu . . . or is it?

Voters in California are having déjà vu. In 1978, voters approved Prop. 13, which capped property tax increases at two percent annually. On the March 3, 2020 ballot, another Prop. 13 is being put before voters and it’s causing a lot of confusion.

To be clear, Prop. 13 (2020) has nothing to do with Prop. 13 (1978). 

Last year the state legislature passed Assembly Bill 48, which placed a bond measure on the March 3, 2020 ballot. That measure was titled Prop. 13 (2020), which if approved will authorize the state to issue bonds up to $15 billion for improving public school — preschool through college/university — facilities.

A quick primer on bonds: A bond is like a mortgage. The state will borrow money (sell the bonds) from investors (who buy the bonds), and has to pay it back with interest (the investors get a profit) in a specified length of time.

Prop. 13 (2020) would direct $9 billion to preschool and K-12 schools; $4 billion would be earmarked for public California State universities and community colleges; $500 million would be directed to charter schools and $500 million to career-tech facilities. The state Financial Analyst office reports the total cost of the measure would be $26 billion, including interest over the life of the bond. The annual interest (just over $700 million) would amount to about 0.5 percent of the state’s annual budget.

Under Prop. 13 (2020), schools with the biggest need in terms of safety would get priority, as would smaller and low-income districts. It would also allow funds to be used at college-level facilities for increasing student access to affordable housing.

Prop. 13 (2020) would also reduce or eliminate (near transit stops) developer’s fees for multifamily housing developments and raise the limit on funding school districts can raise by issuing local bonds. The measure also requires schools requesting funds to provide a five-year master facilities plan, and creates an incentive for all-union construction to be used for bond-funded projects.

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association (HJTA), a critic of the measure, points to the current $7 billion surplus in the state’s general fund, saying that could be used in public schools rather than state taxpayers taking on more debt to fund facilities projects. HJTA also says the increase in borrowing caps for local districts would lead to an increase in local property taxes. HJTA points to the measure incentivizing all-union labor for construction, saying that will drive up costs.

Those supporting the bond measure say the money is desperately needed, especially in smaller, low-income districts to retrofit water systems, remove asbestos and address other safety issues on aging school campuses. Supporters include the California Teachers Association, California Charter School Association, California Professional Firefighters and the Association of California School Administrators.

One committee formed in support of the measure, which has contributed around $1.5 million to its passage, is called Californians for Quality Schools and is primarily sponsored by the California Building Industry Association. Major donors to that committee include the Tejon Ranch Co. and KB Home Inc., both home builders.

There are no committees opposing the measure registered with the California Secretary of State.

Local ballot measures, by city

These ballot measures will only appear on your ballot if you live in the area where they apply. For the March ballot there are measures in two unified school districts: Las Virgenes and Moorpark. Three cities have ballot measures: Oxnard, Ojai and Santa Paula.

Oxnard: Measure B

Called the “Government Accountability and Ethics Act,” this new ordinance, if approved, would add several prohibitions and restrictions to the city code related to campaign contribution limits, receiving gifts, reporting, public records and term limits.

The ordinance would generally prohibit any elected or appointed city official from receiving any gift intended to influence them, any gift from a person or business seeking a contract with the city in the last 12 months, or when a city official is providing information or services in the regular course of their duties.

If approved the ordinance would create donation limits for campaigns for city elected offices. Anonymous contributions over $100 will be prohibited. Disclosure and reporting requirements would align with state requirements, and require the same information to be reported to the city clerk. The city would also have to post contracts and other agreements approved by the city on its website as well as monthly financial reports.

The ordinance would also create term limits that would apply to both city council and mayoral positions. A person could serve three consecutive terms, then take a two-year hiatus from office before qualifying to run again.

The city says the measure is aimed at building transparency in city operations, but that position is being challenged by Oxnard resident Aaron Starr, who points to the January adoption of his proposed term-limit plan by the city. The city council adopted an ordinance setting two terms as the maximum a council member or mayor could serve, with a two-year hiatus.

Starr has argued in a written statement, sent out through his group called “Moving Oxnard Forward,” that the city’s action, paired with putting Measure B on the ballot, is meant to confuse voters. Starr argues that if Measure B is approved, the two-term limit ordinance adopted in January will be nullified, term limits will increase to three consecutive terms and, due to how the measure is written, an individual could switch continuously between mayor and city council member without having to take a two-year hiatus — effectively skirting term limits all together. Starr challenged the campaign contribution restrictions in Measure B in a federal lawsuit against the city, but on Feb. 11, Starr told the VCReporter the case was “dismissed without prejudice because it is not yet ripe. We have the option to refile it, in the event Measure B is adopted.”

Ojai: Measure C

This measure needs a two-thirds majority to pass and would increase the city of Ojai’s hotel or “transient occupancy tax” by five percent to 15 percent. The current 10 percent rate was set in 1971.

The increase would raise an additional $1.3 to $1.7 million annually, with funds targeted to improve and maintain city projects like street maintenance, wildfire prevention, park improvements, stormwater drainage rehabilitation, water conservation, groundwater replenishment, and an emergency communication signboard. www.ojaicity.org.

Santa Paula: Measure D

Currently the city clerk and treasurer for Santa Paula are elected positons for terms of four years each. The city is seeking a voter approval for these positions to be appointed by the city council.

All five Santa Paula City Council members have signed onto an argument in favor of making these positons appointed, stating “The qualifications to serve as an elected city clerk and city treasurer only require that a candidate be 18 years old, a registered voter and a city resident, with no guarantees that they will possess the necessary knowledge, skills and expertise required to perform today’s complex, specialized and technical duties.” The statement says changing the position to “professional, appointed” employees “will help ensure that our city operations continue to be run effectively and professionally with qualified and trained individuals.”

Moorpark Unified School District: Measure A

A local bond measure to authorize the funding of $96 million, which would add a three-cent per $100 of assessed property value, or a total of $5 million annually, to pay for the bond.

The bond needs a 55 percent voter majority to be approved, and requires a project list and citizen oversight committee for use of the funds, which would target projects such as upgrading roofs, plumbing and sewer systems, heating and ventilation. Projects would also remove hazardous materials like asbestos and lead from older school sites. Funds would also be used to ensure modern instructional technology and “flexible use classrooms.” www.mrpk.org.

Las Virgenes Unified School District: Measure V

This district falls mostly in Los Angeles County, but a small portion of the district reaches into Ventura County in Westlake Village and Bell Canyon.

The measure is seeking a locally funded $198 million bond for safety, security and educational upgrades on district campuses. The bond will be funded through an increase in local property tax of about $20 per year for every $100,000 in assessed (not market) value.

The district has already completed a Facilities Master Planning Process and has identified the most “time sensitive” projects, which include school safety projects such as fire and disaster preparedness, an emergency response system, deteriorating roofs, plumbing, heating and air conditioning systems, and improving instructional technology. www.yesforlasvirgenesschools.com/frequently_asked_questions

Early voting happening now: As of Feb. 4, registered voters in the county can cast their votes Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., at the Ventura County Elections Office, downstairs at the Ventura County Government Center, Hall of Administration, 800 S. Victoria Ave., Ventura.

The last day to register to vote for the March 3 primary election is Feb. 18. Register online at www.registertovote.ca.gov/ or in person at the Ventura County Elections Office, downstairs at the Ventura County Government Center, Hall of Administration, 800 S. Victoria Ave., Ventura.

Ongoing coverage: Check next week’s issue (Feb. 20) for a guide to all the races for Ventura County Supervisor that will be on the March 3 ballot. The VCReporter will continue election coverage through the November election.

Got election/campaign news tips? For this election cycle the VCReporter will not be endorsing candidates but will work to inform the community about all the local races, propositions and campaign events as best as we can. Do you have a “need to know” question about a candidate? Have an election-related news tip or campaign press release to share? Send them in an email with “VC Election 2020” in the subject line to Kimberly Rivers at krivers@timespublications.com.