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Santa Barbara

Over $83 million of Santa Barbara County property tax allocated to education has been redirected to pay the State's obligations (Auditor-Controller's "Property Tax Highlights," page 6). This includes the county's entire Educational Revenue Augmentation Fund (normally distributed to the least advantaged school districts) plus $758,373 of property tax that had been directly allocated to individual K-12 school districts as well as the Santa Barbara and Allan Hancock community college districts.


In June, at least $25,218,577 of that money will not have been repaid (California Department of Education's 2013-14 First Principal Apportionment). Santa Maria-Bonita Elementary will still be waiting for $8.6 million when the children leave for the summer, Lompoc Unified for $4.6 million, Goleta Union Elementary for $3.1 million, Santa Maria Joint Union High for $2.6 million, and Orcutt Union Elementary and its charter for $2.2 million.  These numbers are expected to increase as much as 50% with the Second Principal Apportionment later in the year.


Santa Barbara Unified (56% low-income, English-learner), although the same size as Santa Maria-Bonita (91% low-income, English learner), is a basic-aid district and will only have to wait for $524K. As elsewhere in the state, those districts that have been identified under the new Local Control Funding Formula as needing proportionally more to adequately educate their student populations than they're receiving now, also tend to show the largest share of their total funding deferred.  The redirection of property tax ensures that we're not putting our money where our mouths are.


It is time to ask:

  • Why is 10% of Santa Barbara County's property tax being redirected to pay the state's debts, away from its schools?

  • Why are Santa Barbara County schools being forced to serve as Sacramento's interest-free repayment-terms-negotiable piggy bank?

  • And why are we impairing equity by taking stable, reliable property taxes away from districts like Santa Maria-Bonita and replacing them with unreliable state aid?

In Santa Barbara County, a total of $77,297,025  was taken out of school-allocated property taxes to pay State obligations in 2010-2011.  $63,547,974 was redirected to satisfy the State's VLF backfill obligation.  $13,749,051 was redirected to pay for the State's 2004 Economic Recovery Bonds.  This amount increased to $78,146,148 in 2011-12.


Source:  State Controller's Office, Local Government Reporting Section.  (City and county detail shown in the reports, totals upon request from the SCO.)




Santa Barbara is in the Santa Barbara Unified School District.  This district is a recent combination of two basic-aid elementary districts with a revenue-limit high-school district.  As such, it wavers on the edge of basic-aid status, just as Santa Barbara's county-wide Educational Revenue Augmentation Fund wavers on the edge of adequate cover for the State's redirection of funds (Triple Flip and VLF Swap).  

All of this is detailed in the annual "Property Tax Highlights" reports published by the Santa Barbara County Auditor-Controller.  In the most recent report (Fiscal Year 2012-13, p.6), the auditor-controller shows that 12.7% of overall county property taxes (21.8% of education taxes) go into the county's Educational Revenue Augmentation Fund, however that was insufficient to cover the State's Triple Flip and VLF Swap obligations.  So the Fund was used up completely and an additional $1,196,296 was taken out of directly allocated school revenues last year.  

Santa Barbara Unified appears to have been a revenue-limit school last year, so it will have absorbed its proportional share of the primary property tax cut (18%, or about $212K), plus losing the $2.5 million of ERAF it would normally have gotten.  (Yes, 18% of the $78 million ERAF is much more than that, but SBU would only have been "topped up" to its revenue limit.)  So Santa Barbara Unified saw about $3 million go to support the State's obligations, of which $324,893 became an end-of-year deferral and the rest was repaid on time.

Because Santa Barbara Unified hovers on the basic-aid line, it is much more protected than other revenue-limit districts in the county -- Santa Maria-Bonita Elementary had $11,723,228 in end-of-year deferrals and Lompoc Unified $6,164,447.

Even more interesting are the Auditor-Controller's annual reports starting in 2002-03 before all this started.  2005-06 was an anomalous year, but you can see how the education share dropped dramatically over the period and how $80.6 million of stable, local property tax revenue no longer flows into the schools.

                Prop Tax $
                Allocated               ERAF            VLF Swap/    Final Amount    P Tax Alloc
                to Education        Allocation          Triple Flip    to Education    to Education

2002-03                   n/a                    n/a            n/a            n/a                59.0%
2003-04                   n/a                   n/a             n/a            n/a                59.0%
2004-05     260,997,325         57,144,071           -              260,997,325     59.0%
2005-06     288,519,594         62,994,361     56,697,693     231,821,901    47.5%
2006-07     317,232,642         69,151,294     72,500,611     244,732,031    45.5%
2007-08     339,391,848         73,914,361     78,585,403     260,806,445    45.2%
2008-09     353,741,137         77,045,496     78,187,903     275,553,234    45.6%
2009-10     355,585,572         77,465,252     74,619,298     280,966,274    46.1%
2010-11     357,052,968         77,745,614     77,351,719     279,701,249    45.7%
2011-12     361,701,115         78,741,457     77,734,662     283,966,453    45.8%
2012-13     364,712,929         79,406,595     80,602,891     284,110,038    45.4%


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