It’s been nearly 40 years since Californians revolted against runaway taxation by voting for Proposition 13, which reduced property taxes. But today California still has the 10th highest burden in the country when property tax revenues are compared to median household incomes, the Register reported. The real estate comeback and rising property values have driven inflation-adjusted property taxes from $788 per person after Prop. 13 took effect in 1978, to about $1,430 in 2014.
One reason that politicians continue to look for ways to get around Prop. 13 and to raise property taxes is that they send a significant amount of funding to public schools. The tie between property taxes and public education is an artifact of colonial days. While California is less reliant on property taxes than many other states, local revenues, including property taxes, still provide the funding for about 30 percent of the state’s K-12 budget. The most glaring problem with relying on property tax revenues to fund schools is that a child’s ZIP code can determine how many resources their schools have. For example, in 2016-17, Laguna Beach Unified School District generated $16,941 per student while for Garden Grove Unified had $10,719 per pupil — a significant difference of more than $6,200 per child in two school districts located near one another.
California has two types of school districts for funding purposes. Select “basic aid” school districts are property wealthy and can raise their own revenues, usually via property taxes, that allow the districts to raise money well beyond the state-guaranteed funding levels. In contrast, “state aid” school districts, which make up about 90 percent of districts across the state, don’t have access to wealthy property owners and property taxes, and thus rely on state aid.
California’s Local Control Funding Formula, signed into law in 2013, has made progress in increasing both funding equity and transparency in the state’s…