It seems like only yesterday that the state and virtually every local city was claiming crisis and seeking voter approval for new taxes to stave off horrendous cuts to public services. In reality, it’s been a bit more than a year.
We were asked to back Proposition 30, a temporary tax hike to balance the state budget and to fund education. At the local level, we were asked to approve the $348 million Measure Q facilities bond for Solano Community College, along with temporary sales tax proposals in Fairfield, Vacaville and Rio Vista, and a request to extend an expiring tax in Vacaville.
Our answer was a resounding “yes.”
Measure Q passed handily in November 2012, as did the 1 percent Measure P sales tax hike in Fairfield, the one-two tax punch of Measures I and M in Vacaville, and Measure O in Rio Vista. Proposition 30 also passed.
Now it’s the schools’ turn.
Education officials in Fairfield, Suisun City and Vacaville are exploring possible new tax measures to place before voters. Perhaps the time is ripe. Prior to Solano College’s Measure Q, it had been a decade since we approved local school facilities bonds.
Voters in Fairfield and Suisun City in March 2002 approved Measure C, a $100 million facilities bond for the Fairfield-Suisun School District. The state matched the bond so the district got $200 million to spend. The district spent the bond money to rebuild Green Valley and Crystal middle schools, on modernization, new classrooms and a new library for Armijo High School. Rolling Hills Elementary School, for example, was completed in August 2007.
The most recent Measure C projects include the new $5.16 million administration building at Armijo, which features the district’s first foray into solar power. Construction is nearing completion.
School officials in Vacaville are also working toward a potential parcel tax, possibly as soon as November. Such a tax would follow Measure V, a $101.3 million bond passed by voters in 2001 that allowed for more than $157 million in projects once state matches and ancillary funding were added into the mix.
Measure V money was used for renovation and new construction at 15 of the Vacaville School District’s campuses. Recent projects include a feasibility study for a possible stadium at Will C. Wood High School, and a $400,000 technology upgrade project.
The money from Measure C in Fairfield-Suisun and Measure V in Vacaville is essentially spent, but residents for years to come will continue to pay for the bonds on their property tax bills. That’s in addition to a massive new property tax that should hit our tax bills soon.
Solano College is closing out spending on its 2002 Measure C bond and has already authorized issuance of up to $120 million in bonds from Measure Q.
It’s clear that Solano County voters are willing to tax themselves. However, a great deal has changed since November 2012. For example, Proposition 30 was pitched as the “fix” for school funding. It’s not really a fix. Rather, it was a clever way for the state to meet its funding obligation for schools. The elimination of city and county redevelopment also aimed to shore up state and education funding while not throwing the state’s budget any more into the red than it already was.
A bit more than a year later and the state’s unemployment rate is down; the state’s budget is relatively sound, although there remains a mountain of pension and extended unemployment insurance debt; local schools did not send out pink slip warnings to teachers – a regular occurrence in the wake of the Great Recession as schools were shuttered; and city budgets are stabilized through temporary sales tax hikes, with the notable exception of Suisun City, which did not seek a similar tax increase.
Perhaps voters in Fairfield, Suisun City and Vacaville will OK new taxes on top of the old taxes, this time to benefit local schools. Then again, perhaps they won’t.
It’s certainly worth keeping an eye on.
Reach Managing Editor Glen Faison at 427-6925 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GlenFaison.