The parcel tax is unique to California, said economist Jon Sonstelie, because it is a revenue alternative that navigates the constraints of Proposition 13. Sonstelie, PPIC Bren Fellow and a professor at UC Santa Barbara, evaluated the tax in his new report Parcel Taxes as a Local Revenue Source in California and presented the results last week in Sacramento. He noted that between 2003 and 2012, cities, school districts, and local districts put 691 parcel tax proposals to fund services on the ballot, and 53 percent received the two-thirds vote required for passage. Most of these taxes were relatively small. The median was $60 for cities, $96 for school districts, and $68 for special districts.
Following the presentation, a panel discussed the future of local taxes in an era of increasing local authority. Patrick Murphy, PPIC research director, moderated the discussion. Participants included Michael Coleman, principal fiscal advisor to the League of California Cities; Robert Gutierrez, director of the California Tax Foundation; and Marianne O’Malley, managing principal analyst on state and local finance at the Legislative Analyst’s Office