OUSD weighs parcel tax

web Screen Shot 2022 03 07 at 12.34.30 PM

Chart via OUSD agenda


Grant Phillips , Ojai Valley News reporter

Ojai Unified School District trustees on March 9 expressed support for exploring placing a parcel tax on a future ballot, opting for further discussion at a March 15 special meeting with a possible vote of moving forward with a survey. 

A survey would determine community support, allowing residents to indicate if they would support a parcel tax, how they would like the money spent and how much they would be willing to contribute. 

“From my perspective, the whole point to pursue the parcel tax would be for enhanced compensation for OUSD employees,” said Trustee Kevin Ruf. “Here, it’s more straightforward. We raise this money, we have money available to go to employees who have historically not been making near what their peers make.” 

The survey is estimated to cost the district between $12,000 to $13,000. 

“I’m less inclined,” said Trustee Shelly Griffen. “I desperately am seeking how to increase wages, but I’m concerned where we stand right now in the community and I think there’s a lot of work to do before we ask for a parcel.” 

Approval of the parcel tax would require two-thirds’ approval of the total votes cast, not of the entire voting population. Money would be received at the beginning of the fiscal year following the vote. 

Parcel taxes were proposed for Ojai Unified in March 2005 and November 2008. The 2005 parcel tax failed by approximately 20% and the November 2008 parcel tax failed by just 0.7%.

The 2008 attempt was a lower cost per parcel at $89, while 2005’s proposal was higher at $150 per parcel. The school board discussed going with a flat-rate parcel tax this time around.

“We can’t do it by property value, that’s clear,” said Jon Isom, of Isom Advisors, who provided trustees with the initial report. “You have to have a universal approach.” 

Certain exemptions can be offered for senior citizens, requiring them to apply for exemptions. 

Early estimates suggest the parcel tax could last four years, with potential extensions. The length of term is at the discretion of the school district. 

The district has a total of 15,571 total voters, with a majority (50%) leaning Democratic and 55% of voters above the age of 55.

The presentation proposed different amounts that could generate between $500,000 and more than $2 million a year for the school district. The smallest was $59 per parcel, generating an annual revenue of $564,099. The highest was $249 per parcel, with potential annual revenue at $2,380,689.

Voter turnout has fluctuated throughout the valley, with lows near 22% in 2014 and highs closer to 87% in November 2020.

The estimated turnout for this November’s election is 70% of total voters, according to Isom Advisors’ report. 

Ojai Valley voters passed a $45 million school bond in November 2020, which can only be spent on repair, construction or replacement of school facilities. Bond money cannot be spent on salaries or operating expenses.

Parcel tax revenues can pay for general school district operating expenses, including salaries.


Not a subscriber?  choose your subscription plan.