SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Lowering the vote threshold for California school parcel taxes likely would allow more of them to pass but probably would not have a significant effect on school funding statewide, according to a report released Monday from the Public Policy Institute of California.
Parcel taxes are typically flat fees assessed on property to help raise additional money for school district operations and raise an average of $584 a year per pupil. A two-thirds vote is required to approve them, but some Democrats in the state Legislature want to lower that threshold to 55 percent.
Successful attempts to pass parcel taxes tend to be concentrated in wealthier school districts, particularly in the San Francisco Bay Area. The average median income is more than $85,000 in districts that have approved them, compared with about $60,000 in districts that have never proposed one, according to the institute's study.
The study said it is unlikely that school parcel taxes would be widely adopted if the vote requirement were lower, based on what happened when California lowered the threshold for school construction bonds by a similar amount in 2000.
"The number of successful bond measures and the amount of money in each bond increased, but there has been no clear evidence that more school districts are putting bond measures on the ballot," the report said.
Still, it said lowering the vote threshold could be helpful as California implements its new school-funding distribution system, which aims to give more money to districts with higher percentages of children from families who are poor, who do not speak English well or who are foster children.
"Giving wealthier districts more control over their finances could help ease the transition to the new system," the report said.