Proposition 15 - Schools & Communities First!

Proposition 15 - Schools & Communities First!


LWV of Mendocino County hosted Mendocino native Laurel Tamariz (Fedor) October 14 as she gave a delightful presentation about the importance of voting for Proposition 15, also known as Schools & Communities First.  League of Women Voters enthusiastically supports Proposition 15.

Laurel Tamariz is the Statewide Director of the Speakers' Bureau & Training for Proposition 15. In her role, she trains supporters to learn about the initiative.  She has spent her career with one foot in the political world, and one foot in the private sector. In both cases, her passion is working on programs benefiting working families. 

Some background:  When Prop 13 of 1978 rolled back residential property taxes, setting the tax bill at 1% assessed value and capping annual tax increases at 2%, it did not distinguish between residential, commercial, industrial or agricultural property.  So all property in California benefited from the measure. 

Prop 13 created an inequity in property tax assessment and Proposition 15 is meant to fix that structural defect in the law.  Under the current rules, a reassessment for commercial property is only triggered when a person or legal entity acquires more than 50% of the ownership interest.  Using complex techniques, large corporations have been avoiding reassessment by selling no more than 49% to any one person or entity.  This has led to the loss of billions of dollars every year for our schools and communities.    

Companies like Disneyland, Intel and Chevron are currently paying taxes based on property assessments from the 1970s.  Willie Brown, former mayor of San Francisco who has received consulting fees from the “No on 15” campaign, even says the legislature blew it when Prop 13 took affect and that they “should have said anytime there is a change in the ownership of the property through any means, that constitutes a transfer for reassessment purposes.”  Manuel Pastor, director of University of Southern California’s Program for Environment and Regional Equity, says “You’ve got a system right now that is inequitable in terms of where the burden of the property taxes are more on residential folks and more on the most recent buyers who tend not to be the wealthiest, and to be more people of color.”

Blackstone in San Francisco is the largest real estate company in the entire world and is avoiding $12.1 million each year that should be going to schools and community services.  Transamerica Pyramid has been paying taxes for over 20 years based on 1990s values, meaning the owners avoid paying about $2 million every year. Laurel said that even the Sultan of Brunei is benefitting by not paying his fair share of taxes through ownership of Beverly Hills Hotel and Hotel Bel-Air.

Proposition 15, also referred to as “split roll”, would require that commercial property valued at more than $3 million be reassessed at fair market value every three years, phased in over time, beginning in the fiscal year 2022-2023. 

All residential and agricultural property along with commercial property worth less than $3 million would be exempted from this change.  This includes all property being used as residential, even if zoned commercial.  Mixed use property would also be exempt if more than 75% is residential.  Laurel explained that if mixed use property is less than 75% residential, only the square footage of the property considered commercial would be subject to reassessment, and only if that portion of the property is valued above $3 million. 

During the Q&A portion of the evening, Laurel explained that Proposition 15 also eliminates the existing business personal property tax that small businesses pay on their “stuff & things” – their equipment, fixtures, computers – whatever is needed to run their business.  Small businesses are defined as those that are independently owned and operated, own California property, and have 50 or fewer employees.  Other businesses would not pay taxes on the first $500,000 of their personal property tax.  This change to the personal property tax would start immediately after passage of Prop 15.

Money from Prop 15 will be collected by the counties, with about 40% statewide going to a dedicated education fund and the other 60% to be used for local services.  Local communities and schools will determine how the money is spent.  These new revenues will be in addition to all other funding currently being received. 

Laurel shared that Mendocino County local government could receive about $20 million annually, based on a USC study.  An additional receipt of up to $10 million across the county is estimated for schools.  Ukiah USD is estimated to receive $4 million per year, with Willits USD & Fort Bragg USD each estimated to receive up to $1 million annually.  Every school district will receive new money from the passage of Prop 15.

Proposition 15 protects residential and agricultural property.  It provides tax cuts for small businesses.  About 10% of the biggest, wealthiest commercial properties will generate about 90% of the revenue coming back to our local communities and schools, investing in our local economy. 

"If Proposition 15 passes, homeowners across California stand to save hundreds of millions of dollars on their property tax bills every year due to the measure’s change to the treatment of commercial and industrial property,” said Tim Gage, former Director of the California Department of Finance, Principal & Co-Founder of Blue Sky Consulting Group and Mendocino County resident.  “By expanding the tax base – reassessing commercial and industrial property worth more than $3 million – the tax rate that pays for voter-approved bonds will decline, resulting in savings worth hundreds of millions of dollars for homeowners every year. In some locations, homeowners could see as much as $400 savings per year on their property tax bills."

Proposition 15 will be good for increasing excellence in our schools, for supporting our local communities, for benefiting our local economy, and for supporting our own pocket books.


Laurel Tamariz is the Statewide Director of the Speakers' Bureau & Training for Proposition 15. In her role, she trains supporters to learn about the initiative.  She has spent her career with one foot in the political world, and one foot in the private sector. In both cases, her passion is working on programs benefiting working families. 

Laurel’s campaign experience spans 14 years, including candidate races at every level and major issue campaigns. Most recently, she was the Speakers' Bureau Director for the Prop. 55 campaign, which secured $120 billion for California's public education and healthcare as part of the recession recovery effort; and the Stories Director for the Fight For Our Health campaign, which successfully blocked the repeal of the ACA. During non-election cycles, she is a consultant for startups entering funding rounds for venture capital - specializing in honing their story and helping them to align their business models with socially responsible practices.

Laurel has an MBA from the University of California, Davis, with a focus on corporate ethics and finance; and a BA from Mills College in public policy & economics. 

Born and raised on the Mendocino Coast and a graduate of Mendocino High School, she continues to be a big fan of sports done in the great outdoors: notably as a rower for a nationally competitive Women's Masters crew team. She looks forward to the post-COVID era when she can visit her father and stepmother, both retired educators, in Fort Bragg. She resides in Sacramento with her husband and their two little dogs.

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Mendocino County