This November, we will be confronted with several local ballot measures that will determine how much we pay in property taxes.
Prior to 2000, school districts needed two-thirds approval from the voters to pass local general obligation bond measures. Even though voters in Huntington Beach, Fountain Valley and almost all other Orange County cities rejected Proposition 39 in 2000, voters statewide approved giving school boards the option to lower the threshold for school bonds to 55%.
The key point is that the lower threshold of 55% is an option. Local school boards representing communities that rejected Proposition 39 are allowed by state law to honor the two-thirds vote threshold for tax measures.
General obligation bond measures incur bonded indebtedness that is paid back with higher property taxes over the term of the debt, typically lasting several decades. The increased property taxes cannot be repealed during that time, since they are required to pay off the debt. The cost to taxpayers over time is often substantially more than the total of bonds issued because taxpayers are on the hook for both principal and interest to be paid to the bond holders.
The school boards for the Fountain Valley School District, Ocean View School District and Coast Community College District have each submitted bond measures to the Orange County Registrar of Voters.
The Fountain Valley School District Board of Trustees is proposing a $23.5-million school bond. The district is not proposing to build any new schools with this additional tax burden. In an unusual move, it is calling this a "technology bond."
The Fountain Valley School District has sold several school sites, including the sites of several former schools in Huntington Beach, for millions of dollars. Just a few years ago, the Fountain Valley School District purchased one of Fountain Valley's most premium commercial office buildings to move into as a new district headquarters. If this bond measure passes, property taxes will be increased in most of Fountain Valley and portions of Huntington Beach to pay off the bonds.
The Ocean View School District Board of Trustees is proposing a $198-million school bond. The district is not proposing to build any new schools with the additional tax burden. The district also collects rent on the Crest View school site paid by Walmart. If this bond measure passes, property taxes will be increased in much of Huntington Beach, portions of Fountain Valley, and portions of Westminster to pay off the bonds.
This year, the Coast Community College District Board of Trustees is proposing a $698-million school bond. Local property taxpayers who have recently reviewed their bill may recall that they are already paying taxes toward the CCCD's $370-million Measure C passed back in 2002. The Coast Community College District is not proposing to build any new schools with this additional tax burden.
If this bond measure passes, property taxes will be increased, again, for Seal Beach, Westminster, Huntington Beach, Fountain Valley, Costa Mesa, Newport Beach and portions of some neighboring cities.
We as voters will make the ultimate decision as to whether or not to pass these bond measures in November. Citizens can file arguments for or against these bond measures by 5 p.m. Aug. 10 at the Registrar of Voters office, 1300-C S. Grand Ave., Santa Ana. For more information on measure arguments, a "Handbook for Submitting Ballot Arguments" is available at the Registrar of Voters office and on its website, ocvote.com.
MATTHEW HARPER is a member of the Huntington Beach City Council.