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PROPOSITION 2000 General
39 SCHOOL FACILITIES. 55% LOCAL VOTE. BONDS, TAXES. ACCOUNTABILITY REQUIREMENTS.
Analysis
Analysis by the Legislative Analyst

BACKGROUND

   Property Taxes

The California Constitution limits property taxes to 1 percent of the value of property. Property taxes may only exceed this limit to pay for (1) any local government debts approved by the voters prior to July 1, 1978 or (2) bonds to buy or improve real property that receive two-thirds voter approval after July 1, 1978.

   School Facilities

Kindergarten Through Twelfth Grade (K–12). California public school facilities are the responsibility of over 1,000 school districts and county offices of education. Over the years, the state has provided a significant portion of the funding for these facilities through the state schools facilities program. Most recently, this program was funded with $6.7 billion in state general obligation bonds approved by the voters in November 1998.

Under this program, the state generally pays:

• 50 percent of the cost of new school facilities.

• 80 percent of the cost of modernizing existing facilities.

• 100 percent of the cost of either new facilities or modernization in “hardship cases.”

In addition to state bonds, funding for school facilities has been provided from a variety of other sources, including:

• School district general obligation bonds.

• Special local bonds (known as “Mello-Roos” bonds).

• Fees that school districts charge builders on new residential, commercial, and industrial construction.

Community Colleges. Community colleges are part of the state’s higher education system and include 107 campuses operated by 72 local districts. Their facilities are funded differently than K–12 schools. In recent years, most facilities for community colleges have been funded 100 percent by the state, generally using state bonds. The state funds are available only if appropriated by the Legislature for the specific facility. There is no requirement that local community college districts provide a portion of the funding in order to obtain state funds. However, community college districts may fund construction of facilities with local general obligation bonds or other nonstate funds if they so choose.

   Charter Schools

Charter schools are independent public schools formed by teachers, parents, and other individuals and/or groups. The schools function under contracts or “charters” with local school districts, county boards of education, or the State Board of Education. They are exempt from most state laws and regulations affecting public schools. As of June 2000, there were 309 charter schools in California, serving about 105,000 students (less than 2 percent of all K–12 students). The law permits an additional 100 charter schools each year until 2003, at which time the charter school program will be reviewed by the Legislature. Under current law, school districts must allow charter schools to use, at no charge, facilities not currently used by the district for instructional or administrative purposes.

PROPOSAL

   Provisions of the Proposition

This proposition (1) changes the State Constitution to lower the voting requirement for passage of local school bonds and (2) changes existing statutory law regarding charter school facilities. The constitutional amendments could be changed only with another statewide vote of the people. The statutory provisions could be changed by a majority vote of both houses of the Legislature and approval by the Governor, but only to further the purposes of the proposition. The local school jurisdictions affected by this proposition are K–12 school districts, community college districts, and county offices of education.

Change in the Voting Requirement. This proposition allows (1) school facilities bond measures to be approved by 55 percent (rather than two-thirds) of the voters in local elections and (2) property taxes to exceed the current 1 percent limit in order to repay the bonds. This 55 percent vote requirement would apply only if the local bond measure presented to the voters includes:

• A requirement that the bond funds can be used only for construction, rehabilitation, equipping of school facilities, or the acquisition or lease of real property for school facilities.

• A specific list of school projects to be funded and certification that the school board has evaluated safety, class size reduction, and information technology needs in developing the list.

• A requirement that the school board conduct annual, independent financial and performance audits until all bond funds have been spent to ensure that the bond funds have been used only for the projects listed in the measure.

Charter School Facilities. This proposition requires each local K–12 school district to provide charter school facilities sufficient to accommodate the charter school’s students. The district, however, would not be required to spend its general discretionary revenues to provide these facilities for charter schools. Instead, the district could choose to use these or other revenues—including state and local bonds. The proposition also provides that:

• The facilities must be reasonably equivalent to the district schools that these students would otherwise attend.

• The district may charge the charter school for its facilities if district discretionary revenues are used to fund the facilities.

• A district may decline to provide facilities for a charter school with a current or projected enrollment of fewer than 80 students.

   Provisions of Related Legislation

Legislation approved in June 2000 would place certain limitations on local school bonds to be approved by 55 percent of the voters. The provisions of the law, however, would take effect only if this proposition is approved by the voters. These provisions require that:

• Two-thirds of the governing board of a school district or community college district approve placing a bond issue on the ballot. (Current law requires a majority vote.)

• The bond proposal be included on the ballot of a statewide primary or general election, a regularly scheduled local election, or a statewide special election. (Currently, school boards can hold bond elections throughout the year.)

• The tax rate levied as the result of any single election be no more than $60 (for a unified school district), $30 (for a school district), or $25 (for a community college district), per $100,000 of taxable property value. (Current law does not have this type of restriction.)

• The governing board of a school district or community college district appoint a citizens’ oversight committee to inform the public concerning the spending of the bond revenues. (Existing law does not require appointment of an oversight committee.) These requirements are not part of this proposition and can be changed with a majority vote of both houses of the Legislature and approval by the Governor.

FISCAL EFFECT

   Local School Impact

This proposition would make it easier for school bonds to be approved by local voters. For example, between 1986 and June 2000:

• K–12 Schools. K–12 bond measures totaling over $18 billion received the necessary two-thirds voter approval. During the same period, however, over $13 billion of bonds received over 55 percent but less than two-thirds voter approval and therefore were defeated.

• Community Colleges. Local community college bond measures totaling almost $235 million received the necessary two-thirds voter approval. During the same period, though, $579 million of bonds received over 55 percent but less than two-thirds voter approval and therefore were defeated. Districts approving bond measures that otherwise would not have been approved would have increased debt costs to pay off the bonds. The cost to any particular district would depend primarily on the size of the bond issue. (See box for the impact on a typical property owner.) The total cost for all districts throughout the state, however, could be in the hundreds of millions of dollars annually within a decade.

How Would the Proposition Affect
the Average Homeowner?
As noted in the text, this proposition would only have an impact on property owners in cases where a school district bond issue is approved by less than two-thirds but at least 55 percent of the voters. In these instances, the impact on a property owner (business or homeowner) would depend on two factors: (1) the tax rate “add-on” needed to pay the debt on the bonds and (2) the assessed value of a particular property.
The following illustrates the possible impact of the proposition. A homeowner lives in a unified school district that places a bond before the voters. The bond is approved with a 58 percent vote and the size of the bond requires a tax rate levy of $60 per each $100,000 of assessed value. If the assessed value of the owner’s home is the statewide average (about $170,000), the owner would pay about $100 in additional property taxes each year for the life of the bond (typically between 20 and 30 years).

   State Impact

The proposition’s impact on state costs is less certain. In the near term, it could have varied effects on demand for state bond funds. For instance, if more local bonds are approved, fewer local jurisdictions would qualify for hardship funding by the state. In this case, state funding would be reduced from 100 percent to 50 percent of the cost for a new local school. On the other hand, there are over 500 school jurisdictions that do not currently participate in the state school facilities program. To the extent the reduced voter-approval requirement encourages some of these districts to participate in the state program, demand for state bond funds would increase.

In the longer run, the proposition could have a more significant fiscal impact on the state. For instance, if local districts assume greater funding responsibility for school facilities, the state’s debt service costs would decline over time.

The actual impact on state costs ultimately would depend on the level of state bonds placed on the ballot in future years by the Legislature and the Governor, and voters’ decisions on those bond measures.

   Charter Schools

The requirement that K–12 school districts provide charter schools with comparable facilities could increase state and local costs. As discussed above, districts are currently required to provide facilities for charter schools only if unused district facilities are available. The proposition might lead many districts to increase the size of their bond issues somewhat to cover the cost of facilities for charter schools. This could also increase state costs to the extent districts apply for and receive state matching funds. The amount of this increase is unknown, as it would depend on the availability of existing facilities and the number and types of charter schools.
 


  Analysis by the Legislative Analyst
  Argument in Favor of Proposition 39
  Rebuttal to Argument in Favor of Proposition 39
  Argument Against Proposition 39
  Rebuttal to Argument Against Proposition 39
 

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