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Proposition 13 - Essay Example

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In 1978 California passed Proposition 13 with nearly 2/3 of the voters electing to change the way California calculates and collects property tax. Escalating property tax in California had become a sore point with the voters, and Prop 13 stabilized tax rates and put a limit of a 2% increase on yearly reevaluation…
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Proposition 13
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Download file to see previous pages Proposition 13 was the result of a taxpayer revolt against escalating and uncertain tax rates. Viewed as one of the first signs of the coming Reagan Revolution, the radical conservative approach rippled across the country as key provisions of the act were enacted in several other states (Menrow). The most immediate and severe impact of Prop 13 was felt by the school districts that lost over half their revenue creating a crisis in many of California's public schools. In response, California passed a number of bills that eased the pressure on school systems. Overall, tax revenues going to schools decreased between 9% and 15%, with the wealthier districts losing the higher amount ("The Special Challenge"). Prop 13 resulted in the school systems in California moving from local community control to control by the state. It further gave property owners the ability to calculate and plan for their tax rate, enabling low income and fixed income households to maintain possession of their property and avoiding losing their homes due to unaffordable taxes.
The focus of Prop 13 was to give the taxpayer a known and predictable property tax rate. It set a maximum tax rate at 1% and limited valuation increases to 2% per year. Upon selling a property, it would then be revalued at the market value. The 1% limit imposed by Prop 13 was about 1/3 of the rate prior to its passage. Prop 13 further limited local taxation by requiring a 2/3 majority in the legislature and 2/3 public vote to increases local taxes. These actions put the responsibility for funding the public school system on the state and in doing so, the state took control of the schools and away from local communities. Recent amendments have lowered the threshold for voter approval to 55%, which has allowed local governments to raise additional funding when necessary.
Impact of Proposition 13
The impact of the loss of revenue was most clearly felt by local school districts. Schools, faced with fewer dollars, were forced to delay improvements and in some cases resulted in the cutting of programs. However, the long-term result has not led to the bankruptcy of California's schools. Bolstered by "bailout bills" that benefited education, the schools continued to operate under state control at or near the previous level of funding. In 2001-2002 California teachers were ranked at the top of the pay scale compared to other states (Bell). Faced with the loss of revenue, many cities increased fees on everything from traffic violations, to home inspections, and service taxes on hotels and restaurants (Wood). Along with innovative taxation, changes in Prop 13 over the years have made it easier for local communities to raise money for schools by reducing the 2/3 voter approval to 55%. Critics have pointed to the lower test scores in California schools since the inception of Prop 13 and linked them to the reduced funding. Per pupil spending has been reduced and is currently about $650 below the national per pupil average. The falling test scores are due to several reasons and lower funding may be just one facet of the problem. Immigration, state educational policies, and an activist teachers union may have more impact on test scores than reduced funding.
Relations between the state and local governments have been strained as local government officials, in need of funding, have become ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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