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Steve Hansen: Just how much of collected property taxes stays local?

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Posted: Tuesday, August 28, 2018 11:13 am

“We don’t need a stinkin’ sales tax increase," remarked a friend of mine. “I don’t know anybody with two cents in his pocket who’s going to vote for it.”

I responded: “Why is that? How else are we going to get our police force at staffing comparable to other towns this size?“

“The City of Lodi will have plenty of money when all these new homes around here are completed,” he answered. “Well, at least that’s what most of my friends think.”

Unfortunately, it’s the old dilemma that people vote based on what they know. But what they don’t know can often lead to regrettable decisions — sort of like eating doughnuts while trying to lose weight.

Take property taxes, for example. It’s one of the major sources of revenue for the State of California. Now getting back to what we don’t know, is it true that all funds collected from property within the City of Lodi stay within its limits?

Before you answer that question, remember: California’s power structure is basically centralized in Sacramento — much like the Middle Ages when the lords ruled over the serfs. Now here’s your answer:

Based on information provided by the city manager’s office, only 16.6 percent of collected property tax revenue actually goes to Lodi! These funds pay for police, fire, street maintenance — along with other public works, administration, library, cultural services, parks and recreation — just to name some of the services provided by your municipality.

“You mean, that’s it? Only 16.6 percent of our property taxes goes to this city?” you might ask.

That’s right. It’s about 17 cents on every dollar. So where does the rest of the money go?

Remember, California political power is centralized in Sacramento, and here’s the important part that most people don’t seem to know:

Our city has no control beyond 16.6 percent of revenues collected from your local property taxes.

It is the state overlords that decide how these funds are allocated. “The serfs,” i.e., your city administrators, city council and even your local vote at the ballot box have no effect on the rules the state legislature has created.

So getting back to the last question: Where does the rest of the 83.4 percent of collected property taxes go? Here’s the breakdown for the City of Lodi:

1. 27.3 percent goes to the school district.

2. 22.0 percent goes to the San Joaquin County general fund.

3. 3.8 percent goes to San Joaquin Delta College.

4. 2.6 percent in miscellaneous expenses directed by the state.

5. And last, but not least, 27.7 percent of your local property taxes, or about 28 cents on the dollar, are grabbed by Sacramento for whatever projects the legislature deems necessary or desirable.

Here’s another way of looking at it: Let’s say your annual property tax in Lodi (not to mention all the “extra” assessments people have attached by their votes over the last several years) is $2,000. Out of that substantial sum, only $332 will go the City of Lodi!

Now you can see why the money for a fully staffed police department can’t come from “somewhere else.” There really is no “somewhere else,” as long as we have the present California tax and distribution system.

This is why your city council has placed a half-cent sales tax increase on the November ballot. If we just could somehow magically deal with the homeless, the increased murder and other crime rates, along with the intoxicated loving couples, who always seem to be fighting on Saturday and Sunday night, then I’m sure our city council would no doubt, wave the fairy godmother wand.

But unfortunately, I’m afraid we just don’t live in Fantasyland anymore.

Steve Hansen is a Lodi writer

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