Council 57 Pledges $150K to Support Schools & Communities First

The AFSCME Council 57 Executive Board recently voted to pledge $150,000 to Schools & Communities First, a historic ballot measure that, if passed in November, will reclaim billions of dollars a year for schools and communities in California.

Council 57 now joins a growing coalition of labor unions, small business owners, elected officials and community organizations that are supporting the first structural and equitable tax reform in 40 years.

Organizations such as the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, California Teachers Association, SEIU California and hundreds of others have backed the initiative, which looks to reclaim more than $12 billion per year for K-12 schools, community colleges and local communities where our sisters and brothers work.

“Big corporations and wealthy investors have been able to avoid paying their fair share of property taxes, and this ballot initiative will close the tax loophole they’ve been exploiting,” Council 57 Executive Director Charles Allen said. “In short, passage of the initiative will improve our members livelihoods significantly.”

Shady tax evasion schemes and corporate loopholes that have been in place since 1978 have created school funding shortages. In turn, California now has the most overcrowded classrooms in the country.

Meanwhile, our sisters and brothers have been asked to do more with less on the front lines in our local communities, while wildfires burn and homelessness grows.

The coalition is looking to reverse that trend by having commercial and industrial properties assessed at fair market value while maintaining protections for homeowners, renters, apartment buildings and agriculture.

Schools and Communities First would also help small business owners by exempting those that own property valued at $3 million or less. It would also create a new business tax exemption on the first $500,000 of business personal property.

A research team at the University of Southern California recently released a report showing that every county in California stands to benefit from ensuring commercial and industrial properties are assessed at fair market value. Here is the regional breakdown, according to estimates:

  • Los Angeles County: Up to $3.75 billion
  • Bay Area: Up to $4.61 billion
  • Central Valley: Up to $447.7 million
  • Inland Empire: Up to $848.9 million
  • Central Coast: Up to $628.1 million
  • San Diego and Imperial Counties: Up to $727.2 million
  • Orange County: Up to $1.1 billion
  • Upstate/Northern California: Up to $130.5 million
  • Sacramento Area: Up to $316.6 million
  • Central Sierra: Up to $36.4 million

The report also showed that such a change would primarily affect a fraction of commercial and industrial properties in the state that have overwhelmingly benefited from corporate property tax loopholes.

In other words, an estimated 78% of the reclaimed revenue would come from only 6% of commercial and industrial properties.

“This is a choice between perpetuating a tax break for the wealthiest corporations in our state or expanding the critical local services to reduce homelessness, reduce emergency wait times and improve our neighborhoods—at zero cost to residents,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a press release. “These numbers show just how critical of a choice this is.”

Over the next several months, look for opportunities to support Schools and Communities First in your area as we step up our efforts to win at the ballot box.