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Measure B Deserves an ‘A’ for Helping Education in Davis

By Donna Neville | Published on the Davis Vanguard

Please support Measure B on the November 3 ballot.  Despite the ”B” in its name, the measure deserves an “A” for putting forward a plan that will boost our schools and foster a strong partnership with UC Davis that is vital to our community.

My views are shaped by nearly three decades of working on issues related to education law and policy, with a particular focus on public finance. I served as chief counsel to the California State Auditor, an important state government watchdog, and as chief counsel to the State Board of Education. I earned my law degree at King Hall on the UC Davis campus.

Currently, I have the honor of serving in two key volunteer roles that greatly inform my opinions about Measure B. I chair the Measure M Citizens Bond Oversight Committee, which oversees expenditures of Measure M bond proceeds, and as vice chair of the City of Davis Finance and Budget Commission.

An independent analysis by Economic & Planning Systems Inc. (“EPS”), nationally known experts on land-use economics, found that the Davis Innovation & Sustainability Campus (DISC) would generate $1.3 million annually at buildout from the future collection of community facility district taxes, parcel taxes, and property taxes levied to pay off school construction bonds.

That annual $1.3 million figure is actually quite conservative. It does not reflect increases in tax revenues over time related to inflation, such as cost-of-living adjustments in parcel tax levies. Nor does it reflect the additional parcel taxes to increase teacher pay approved by voters in the March 2020 election via Measure G. Moreover, these estimates of DISC revenues for schools do not include an estimated $4.4 million in one-time funding in School Impact Fees that must be paid by the developers of the project.

The EPS  estimates, developed in close consultation with fiscal experts of the Davis Joint Unified School District (DJUSD), assume that parcel taxes and school construction bonds that have been regularly renewed by voters over the last four decades would continue to be renewed.  This assumption seems reasonable to me given the strong support that our community has historically demonstrated for supporting our schools and renewing  parcel taxes and approving school bonds.

In my view, the EPS projections are reasonable and consistent with sound fiscal practice.

In fact, I believe that there are additional reasons why DJUSD will receive considerably more money from DISC than EPS projected.

The new students who live at DISC would likely attend DJUSD schools, which would generate state funding for these students. Last year (2019-20) the average daily attendance amount for each student ranged from $8,200 to $10,000, depending on grade level. Also, some of the regional workers who commute to DISC to work would likely seek inter-district transfers which would allow their children to attend DJUSD schools, and this would also bring in state revenue for each student.  These additional amounts are not included in the EPS analysis but fiscal experts at DJUSD believe they could be significant.

In addition to its economic benefits, DISC will create a synergistic relationship between the leaders of the high-tech companies that locate at DISC and our community educational programs. As a community that places such high value on education, we should be excited about the partnership opportunities DISC will offer for high school students as well as undergraduates and graduate students.

UC Davis, with its almost $950 million a year in research grants and contracts, has publicly stated its support for DISC because the proximity of private-sector researchers and advanced manufacturing could accelerate its technology transfer and development of intellectual property.

I agree with the comments of UC Davis community liaison Mabel Salon: “One essential element for these efforts is readiness. Within our region, we must collectively lead with economic recovery and be ready to support long-term economic development.  Successful economic development demands early innovation, support for new industry startups, and readiness with our workforce, facilities and infrastructure.”

I believe the choice here is clear. Please join me in voting yes on Measure B.

Donna Neville is a retired attorney who serves on the Budget and Finance Commission for the City and the DJUSD Measure M Oversight Committee.

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