The proliferation of parcel taxes and the large expenditure of public funds used to facilitate their passage renders the majority of unorganized property owners defenseless. The fact that special districts, such as the Sequoia Healthcare District on whose board I serve, have the power to place parcel tax measures on the ballot should be a concern to all. And, the Democrat controlled Legislature threatens to place a measure on the ballot which would lower the vote for parcel taxes to 55%.
A visit to the Howard Jarvis website: Web Link (excerpts below) led me to suggest the following to my fellow advocates for taxpayers:
"Might not an initiative petition assault on ALL parcel taxes be cost effective, and help build a constituency?"
Within a few years after the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978, some local governments began imposing a new species of property tax that was not based on the assessed value of a parcel. The tax amount imposed per parcel was generally the same and was imposed without regard to parcel value. Structuring a tax in this manner enabled local governments to get around the property tax rate prohibitions of Proposition 13 and impose additional property taxes for operating expenses. These taxes have become known as parcel taxes.
PURSUE A LOCAL INITIATIVE TO REDUCE OR REPEAL A PARCEL TAX
In 1996, California voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 218 (known as the "Right to Vote on Taxes Act"), an initiative constitutional amendment sponsored by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. Besides giving voters the constitutional right to vote on local government tax increases, Proposition 218 also included provisions (Section 3 of Article XIIIC of the California Constitution) allowing local voters to use the initiative process to reduce or repeal local government taxes. This includes local parcel taxes.
Under Proposition 218, local tax initiatives are generally subject to a reduced signature gathering requirement which is set at 5% of the local votes for all candidates for Governor at the last gubernatorial election. This number is approximately equal to 3% of the registered voters.
If a local parcel tax passes by a very close margin, or if local taxpayers are otherwise unhappy with an existing parcel tax, then a local tax reduction or repeal initiative can be pursued under the provisions of Proposition 218. Such local initiatives are generally the only tool taxpayers have to reduce the tax burden within their community since it is rare for local elected officials to voluntarily reduce or repeal taxes once they have been imposed.
Local initiative procedures are generally set forth in the California Elections Code. Elections Code sections can be viewed online at the website of the California Legislature at: Web Link. Charter cities often have their own separate procedures for the exercise of the local initiative power.
The proponents of a tax reduction or repeal initiative must follow all procedures applicable to the exercise of the local initiative power without deviation. Failure to follow all procedures can result in a measure not being placed on the ballot, even if a sufficient number of signatures have been obtained. Once placed on the ballot, local tax reduction or repeal initiatives are subject to majority vote approval.