So, we have… another special election coming up. On June 4th, most Angelenos will have only one single measure on the ballot: Measure EE.
Measure EE is pretty simple, but let’s break it down. A yes vote on Measure EE creates a special education fund for LAUSD. The fund will come from a new property tax of 16 cents per square foot on buildings on all property within the LAUSD boundaries. Built into the measure is an exemption for senior citizens and low income residents with disabilities.
The proceeds from this tax will be allocated toward meeting the critical issues that UTLA teachers went on strike over earlier this year, including raising teacher salaries, lowering classroom sizes, and ensuring there is a nurse on every campus. The measure includes a couple of accountability mechanisms as well. The fund will be separate from LAUSD’s budget, and all monies would be mandated to be used toward the specific designations included in the measure itself. The also measure requires an annual audit of the fund, which will be made available to the public.
The important thing about this new tax is that the folks paying the most are businesses and wealthy property owners, who own either massive, massive homes or multiple properties. At a rate of 16 cents per square foot on buildings, a homeowner who owns a 1000 square foot home will be paying about $160/year. Those who make enormous profits off of property ownership will be hit harder, as they should be. Business owners, and particularly landlords, in fact stand to benefit the most from the tax itself, as better schools are one of the most historically solid guarantees of rising property values.
In some ways the structure of this measure is a good step in the direction of the larger goal of reforming Prop 13. There is an emerging coalition up and down the state that wants to see a 2020 campaign to reform Proposition 13, California’s infamous law that created the loopholes that big business and land barons use to avoid paying their fair share of property taxes. Measure EE is structured to generate revenue from businesses more than individuals, in part by applying the tax to square footage of structures and not total property. In fact revenue from Measure EE will be distributed at about the same proportion as we saw the property tax burden distributed in pre-Prop 13 California. As more Californians begin to understand how individual homeowners are paying the majority of property tax in a state that is home base for thousands of the largest corporations in the world, perhaps the push to exclude businesses from the benefits of Prop 13 will grow as well.
As much as this is a no brainer, in order to get the two thirds majority needed for the measure to pass it’s important to spread the word and do our best to get our friends and neighbors out to the polls. In elections like this, where there is only one issue on the ballot, we generally see especially low voter turnout. In addition to that, the one district where there is another issue on the ballot is City Council District 12, which is the district with the highest concentration of registered Republicans and also the highest concentration of property owners. The added turnout from their special election (Vote for Loraine Lundquist!) could very possibly result in a boost to the No side.
So TLDR, LAUSD teachers put everything on the line earlier this year to ensure that the children of our city can rely on a decent public education system, the least we can do is back them up by taxing property owners and paving the way toward Prop 13 reform.