FRESNO, California (KSEE) — Some Central Valley community leaders gathered Thursday with one message, vote yes on Proposition 15 on the November ballot.
The measure would raise taxes on businesses with properties valued at $3 million or more to generate around $12 billion annually to go to underserved communities and schools. However, critics say it’ll do more harm than good.
The Dolores Huerta Foundation organized a virtual press conference Thursday featuring five community leaders in the region — including Dolores Huerta herself — to promote Prop. 15. Also called the Schools and Communities First Initiative, each leader stressed everyone wouldn’t be subject to it.
“We’re talking industrial properties. We’re talking about commercial properties, which have been locked in a tax rate equivalent to 1978,” said Dr. Daren Miller, Fresno County Board of Education trustee.
The goal for Prop. 15 is to reverse some of Proposition 13, which was passed in 1978. It helped keep business properties tax rates the same as they were at the original time of purchase, in some cases dating back to when Prop. 13 was first passed.
Most homeowners, small businesses and farmers would be exempt, according to Huerta, Miller, and the other speakers at the press conference.
“If we had successfully invested in our communities, we would not be experiencing the burden we have as a result of COVID-19, as a result of the fires, as a result of the racial injustice we do have,” said Genoveva Islas, who is the director at Cultiva La Salud and a Fresno Unified trustee.
Despite assuring their exemption, some of the most outspoken critics of Prop. 15 have come from the agricultural community. Many acknowledge the measure does exempt farmland, but argue it doesn’t exempt the things on the land itself — like the fruit trees, barns and irrigation systems.
Some argue unless the measure’s language is changed, they could be subject to tax hikes. Fresno County assessor-recorder Paul Dictos is on their side.
“It’s not going to work, it’s a pipe dream,” Dictos said of the measure over the phone.
He adds it’ll require an overhaul of his office. Under Prop. 15, he would have to re-assess properties at least once every three years.
“In the small counties, it will be bad. The big counties will have a hard time re-tooling and getting the people to do the work,” Dictos said. “It takes five years for me to train a commercial appraiser.”
Read more on Prop. 15 by clicking here.