June 28, 2022
Measure A and Measure F were on the ballot on June 7th, signaling a potential for tax hikes in Upland California. Though neither of them passed, other measures like them may be coming soon. Ensuring that special-purpose tax hikes have community support while trying to secure majority voting requirements has proven difficult among Upland California residents and officials. The issue lies in differentiating whether or not the proposed Measures are upheld under the Upland Ruling or Proposition 13 standards.
The Manhattan Beach Education Foundation is known for being a community-centered association, driven by aid for teachers and staff. Along with raising $1.3 million through its annual June fundraiser, MBEF also backed a new tax increase plan. Measure A was proposed to create an Upland property tax aimed at raising teachers’ salaries in the Manhattan Beach Unified School District. Under this Measure, parcels (taxable real estate, such as a home) would be taxed at $1,095 each with inflation modifications, annually. This would, in turn, generate an estimated $11-13 million, annually, for Manhattan Beach education support. The measure failed to pass, with only 31.6% voting in favor of it.
Measure A was not the only measure of this type that was on the June ballot. Measure F was a citizens’ initiative to create a .05% sales tax to benefit the Kings County Fire Department in Upland California. Adopting this measure would have allowed room for nearly $12 million in additional funding for emergency and fire services. It was also defeated; this time only 35.7% voted in favor.
Why the Confusion?
In California Cannabis Coalition v. The City of Upland, the California Supreme Court made a distinction between tax measures proposed by government bodies and those put on ballots due to citizens’ initiatives. The former still requires a 2/3rds vote to pass, but the latter only needs 50%. Citizens’ initiatives backed by unions whose members would benefit most by their passing have left approval odds at an impasse. Measure A was backed and sponsored by the MBEF, which primarily includes teachers who would have received a pay increase. Measure F was backed by the same firefighting union that would have received pay increases.
According to California’s constitution, taxes for a specific purpose can’t be passed with just a simple majority, like general taxes. This fact has been the case since Proposition 13 in 1978.
It’s clear that citizens and unions are seeking ways to alleviate the financial strain caused by the pandemic and inflation. Ballot initiatives are not impossible to pass, as seen with Measure O, which was approved in Mariposa County. The possibility for public unions to sponsor and back their initiatives to increase pay is, most likely, an unintended consequence of the Upland Property Tax Ruling and the tax hikes associated with it. Residents of Upland California hope the California Supreme Court will clarify its position soon to prevent future conundrums.