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No Transparency


How much of Californians' local property tax goes to Californians' local schools? Many local government officials can't tell you -- but still they publish graphics like the ones shown below.  Recalculating, based on the California Department of Education's records showing the revenues the schools actually received, tells a very different story.

Los Angeles - over 40%?  Actually, under 25%.  

(Los Angeles County Auditor Controller

-Property Tax-Revenue Allocation-Summaries-Detail)

41 cents on the dollar?  No.  Less than 30 cents actually make it to Alameda schools and community colleges. 

(Alameda County Assessor's Annual Report)

San Francisco ... 34%?  Nope - only 20% actually arrives at schools and community colleges.

(San Francisco Assessor Recorder Annual Report)

In fact, unless you see a graphic that explicitly shows Redevelopment Agencies and In Lieu Transfers like the one below, it probably significantly overstates the share of your property taxes that is going to local schools and community colleges.   

Bravo and thanks, San Luis Obispo.  Of course, it's politically easier to publish this information when the actual share to education is close to 50%. But note  they don't explain the 'exchanges' represent school revenues going rapidly out, while cash from Sacramento is only trickling in.

As parents, we became aware of this when we looked at the California Department of Education information at the excellent website.  When we researched our individual school districts, and drilled down on the financial information, we saw that somehow "Educational Revenue Augmentation" takes some money or -- in the case of the Redwood City district (see below) -- every penny of local property tax that we paid in.

The Educational Augmentation Fund number is negative (meaning that some or all of this school district's primary allocation of property taxes has been taken, along with all the money from the Education Revenue Augmentation Fund from the entire county).  There is no indication of how much Education Revenue Augmentation Fund dollars that were taken.

This, in turn, allows the State of California to credit itself with a disproportionately large contribution to K-14 education when, in fact, it is simply covering its Economic Recovery Bonds, its Vehicle License Fee backfill obligation, and additional supplemental revenue to two counties.   

Reading the LAO's "2013-14 Budget:  Proposition 98 Education Analysis" is so frustrating for property taxpayers.  Did all our tax contribution for the schools amount to so little?  Not when we redo the math to exclude the revenue transfers and reclassify 'paying down the deferrals' as paying off debts.

Just as disconcerting, you will notice that in the LAO's white paper on Insufficient ERAF -- and in our own figures covering the amount of revenue redirected -- only round numbers are used.  This is because publicly available reporting on the redirected taxes comes from the recipients, via the State Controller's Office, rather than directly from whomever makes the byzantine calculation.  Thus, the 2011-12 numbers had not been released as of October 2013.  And the 2010-11 numbers include eight cities that failed to file outright and seven that filed "0" receipts.  So, even the best numbers that Sacramento has, are incomplete.


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