How San Diego County's Taxpayers Association is Voting this November
This is an independent opinion. Have one of your own? Write it! Email it to [email protected]
Ahead of the November 2020 election, my organization, the San Diego County Taxpayers Association (SDCTA) recently released its official November 2020 Voter Guide. SDTCA is San Diego’s taxpayer watchdog group, so the only side we take is that of the taxpayer. Our mission is to ensure San Diegans’ hard-earned tax dollars are spent wisely and efficiently, so we consider it our duty to provide non-partisan, highly researched information that helps citizens educate themselves about what's on their ballot.
This election cycle puts many crucial choices in front of San Diego voters, on topics like property taxes, height limits on buildings, affordable housing and rent control—as well as multiple school bonds funding districts across San Diego County. Based on our in-depth, data-driven review of each, here are SDCTA’s recommendations for how to vote on the state and local ballot measures with the biggest impacts for your wallet.
Proposition 15 would implement something known as a “split roll,” and change the property tax rules enacted under the landmark Proposition 13 law of 1978. Right now, owners of both commercial and business properties in California pay a 1% property tax based on assessed value at the time of purchase. This tax rate only changes when the property is sold and reassessed. Proposition 15 would eliminate that protection for commercial properties and allow annual reassessments, triggering tax increases. This will create major tax liabilities for business owners, many of whom are already struggling as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This measure will amend the property tax portability provisions of the law enacted by Proposition 19 in 1978. Proposition 19 only adds to the complexities of Proposition 13, strips property owners (particularly low and middle-income Californians and seniors) of protections and “lockboxes” tax revenue, making it harder to flexibly address Californians’ needs in these tough times.
Proposition 21 puts rent control back on the ballot, despite a similar measure’s defeat by a 60%-40% margin in the 2018 election. Historically, SDCTA has opposed all forms of rent control. We maintain that the imposition of rent control by local governments equates to setting a price ceiling below the market value of a property only for a given portion of the market. This prompts several adverse effects and ultimately harms people it’s meant to protect.
This year’s record wildfire season has highlighted the importance of supporting firefighters and their needs, and prompted SDCTA to support Measure AA, the Valley Center Fire Protection District Emergency Response Protection Measure. The Valley Center Fire Protection District has an excellent record on oversight, and they keep costs down by not having expensive pensions, so we have reason to believe they will spend taxpayer dollars efficiently.
It’s a fact: San Diego needs more housing. Measure A, the Homelessness and Affordable Housing Bond, will build an estimated 7,500 subsidized housing rental units for low-income households, seniors, veterans and the homeless. Construction will be financed by $900 million in general obligation bonds.
While SDCTA takes a strong stance against ballot box land-use planning (or, making voters decide how and when to build things), we support this change to San Diego Municipal Code 132.0505 Coastal Height Limit. This measure demonstrates positive economic implications through an increased tax base from development. Increased housing and commercial development in the Midway area with increased height limits will spur increased tax revenues. Increases in height limits also supports the adopted Community Plan Update that calls for increases in housing and density for a revitalization of the area.
Measure L will determine whether or not the North River Farms housing development can be built. We stand by our position against ballot box land-use planning by supporting the Oceanside City Council’s original decision to approve the North River Farms housing development. This will provide much needed housing units to the city of Oceanside.
School Bonds - YES AND NO
While the need for housing has been on the forefront, school improvements are a major issue San Diegans will need to decide on. There are several school bonds on the ballot this November that meet all of SDCTA’s stringent criteria.
We recommend voting yes for these school bonds, because their districts have the most complete bond submissions that included adequate spending plans: Cajon Valley School District (Measure T), Dehesa School District (Measure U) and La Mesa-Spring Valley School District (Measure V).
We recommend voting no for Oceanside School District’s bond (Measure W), which still needs some refinements and better spending plans.
While this year’s presidential election is extremely consequential, we all need to make informed decisions about the local issues immediately affecting our day-to-day lives and finances. It’s ultimately your choice, so make your voice heard this Nov. 3 and vote.