Can you afford to give up a latte a week?
Then you can afford to vote Nov. 4 for the Manteca Unified School District’s multi-purpose $159 million bond,
That’s the observation made by Ken Johnson, president of the Manteca Educators Association.
The bond issue is going to cost $60 per $100,000 assessed valuation. For a typical $300,000 home that’s $180 a year or $3.46 a week. Drop that latte and you’ve got it covered.
But what if you are among those who view a latte as a luxury that you can’t afford because you are barely getting by? And to be fair to latte loving school bond advocates, let’s say you live in a home that is assessed at $200,000. That’s $120 a year or $10 a month. Surely you can give up brand name cereal or have bread and water for a couple of meals a month.
Actually, the school district isn’t concerned about your vote. The consultant already has told school leaders the obvious — you can’t afford to pay for it so you’re going to vote “no.”
Who they really need to worry about are the same ones they feared back in 2004 — those slapped with Mello Roos taxes.
The current bond that a large share of Manteca Unified School District property owners will be paying for another 20 years excluded homes paying Mello Roos taxes. Why were they exempted? Well, the consultant at the time feared they wouldn’t vote for the bond because they were already paying a substantial Mello Roos tax.
In the words of then Manteca Unified Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Jerry Ogden, “Mello Roos people might be 100 percent behind the concept but financially unable to support us.”
Gee, government worried about the financial burden it is placing on taxpayers. That wasn’t exactly the case. The decision to drop Mello Roos folks from having to pay for a bond was done so they could get it passed. The district had no problem putting more of the burden on non-Mello Roos homeowners. That was done despite clear data that shows buyers of new homes that have Mello Roos are substantially financially better off than those that own older homes. They also tend to have kids in school.
But let’s take it from the angle of the district’s position in 2004. Mello Roos homeowners already have an exceptional burden. Not only are they paying a special tax for school facilities that depending upon the size of their home and its location is running between $400 and $1,200 a year, but here’s a dirty little secret: They are paying a stealth tax.
Let’s say they are living in a 3,200-square-foot home they bought in the last few years. The price of the home includes $10,752 based on a $3.36 per square foot construction fee (tax) for new school facilities. It’s collapsed into the mortgage. Even at the low loan rates in recent years, that $10,752 will end up costing just over $18,000 by the time the 30-year mortgage is paid off. The stealth school tax costs buyers of new homes $600 a year on top of their Mello Roos tax. If the $159 million bond passes, buyers of new homes with Mello Roos will essentially be paying three taxes for schools — Mello Roos, the bond tax, and the stealth tax collapsed into their mortgage.
Compare that to buyers of an older home not in a Mello Roos district. They do not have the stealth tax or the Mello Roos tax. The only school facilities tax that they have is Measure M.
Ironically, the odds are those who live in Mello Roos homes are probably more likely to buy lattes.
It should be noted the Mossdale area of Lathrop has a non-school Mello Roos tax that costs each homeowner upwards of $2,100 a year to pay for neighborhood improvements that developers typically put in place elsewhere.
By any fairness standard, making Mello Roos homeowners pay what amounts to a third tax for school facilities is unfair. Older homes are often bought by younger families who impact schools yet they are only paying the Measure M bond tax.
Of course, if you don’t spread the new bond over all existing property the cost per $100,000 will go up for older, non-Mello Roos homes. While $60 a month might seem tolerable, $80 or more may not. There has been a lot of new construction in Manteca, Lathrop, and Weston Ranch since Mello Roos taxes were put in place in the mid-1990s.
The district can ill afford to wait for a bond as within the next two years or so a new tax to pay for extremely expensive levee work will be placed on areas that are starting to develop. Buyers of homes in such area will be forced to pay the tax as it will be in place before they buy their homes.
No one knows what the levee tax will be yet, but if the work is anything on the level that River Islands had to do, a $100 million price tag would be conservative. And since there is a lot less property in impacted areas to spread it across, that yearly bond cost could range from $100 to $200 if not higher.
You might want to jaw with those scenarios sometime over a latte with school bond backers while you can still afford to pay for the latte.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.