The two communities have different histories with school measures. Livermore has passed a couple of bonds, the latest in 2016 and also has a parcel tax that has been renewed twice.
Pleasanton voters defeated the latest bond measure two years ago, after passing the first one in years in 2016. Pleasanton voters have twice rejected parcel taxes for schools. This is a correction from the earlier version. .
For whatever reason, bonds and tax increases in Pleasanton seem to face a higher hurdle than they do six miles east. For Pleasanton, a yes vote with a 55% majority for the $395 bond measure will mean a $49 per 100,000 in assessed valuation tax increase. For an average priced home, that will mean a tax increase of $470.
In Livermore, it’s a $450 million bond so that will mean about a $350 increase for the average assessed valuation of $580,000. Livermore superintendent Chris Van Shack wrote in an email that the 2016 bond proceeds have been spent or encumbered. The new gym and athletic facilities at Livermore High that replaced a repurposed gym from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory site and its World War II heritage.
One gym at Amador Valley High, which will celebrate its centennial in 2023, dates almost back to that time, while the “new” gym opened while I was in high school there—by class reunion organizers are putting together the 55th for next year.
It’s obvious that those ancient facilities, as well as the refurbished Amador Theater, another original structure, need to be replaced. They are an embarrassment for a community that provides itself on quality facilities and services.
Some people have criticized the district for not building another elementary or k-8 school as was anticipated in the 2016 bond. That’s a prudent decision because the district has dropped 800 students in the enrollment over the last few years. If that trend continues, then it could be looking at consolidating elementary schools at some point, while if it stabilizes the existing facilities will serve the students fine.
That said, the tax hits are not insignificant, particularly for those who have purchased homes in the Covid price runup that has moderated in the last few months. For a family that purchased the median priced home at $1.5 million, the additional tax would be $735. They’re already paying $15,000 plus all of the special assessments so likely more than $20k in property taxes. On a percentage basis, it’s not a big hit.
Interestingly, Todd Utikal, the co-chair of the Measure I supporters, shared with me a chart showing the bond tax rates for four bay area counties—Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo and Santa Clara. The highest rate, $237.90, is in the sprawling western Contra Costa district. Neighboring Dublin, which has a second comprehensive high school under construction as well as other rehabilitation and construction, ranks fourth at $196.40. Pleasanton is fifth from the bottom at $43.50, while Livermore sits at $70.60 and San Ramon Valley is at $75.
Given the household income of Pleasanton that should leave capability to pay closer to the average. I am using numbers provided by Pleasanton finance director Susan Hsieh who noted that there are many senior citizens who are living in homes they purchased 30 or 40 years ago. I know many of them in my church. The measure will increase their taxes, but thanks to Proposition 13 in 1978, they’re paying on an assessed valuation way lower than neighbors who purchased in recent years.
I had asked what portion of the city’s property tax revenue came from residential and I was surprised at the result. I had figured, with Hacienda Business Park and other business parks plus retail shopping centers in the city that commercial and retail uses would provide the majority of the property tax.
Wrong. Residential property tax receipts account for 73.4% of revenue, while commercial is 17.2%. In this case, that’s appropriate since it’s residents who use the schools.
Given the rampant inflation unleased by the Democrats in Washington D.C. and the Federal Reserve coupled with the threat of a recession as the Fed raises interest rates to try to curb inflation and the dropping housing prices because of those interest rates and it’s a tough time to ask for more taxes.
It’s also long overdue, particularly for Pleasanton, to invest significantly in the school physical plants. The $395 measure only covers about 40% of the estimated need that the district’s facilities plan outlines so it’s an important down payment.