Financing Local Government

We support measures to promote the sound financing of regular governmental services and of major capital improvements.
Position In Brief: 

The League of Women Voters of Ventura County supports measures to promote the sound financing of regular governmental services and of major capital improvements (1966, 1974-77).

Position History: 

2002: President Lillian Goldstein signed ballot argument in favor of Measure T, which revised the County’s business tax ordinance. It passed and, according to a letter from Supervisor Bennett, saved the County $1 million.

Government Position

A 1966 “Evaluation of the Local Tax Structure” was followed by a 1974-77 LWV-California study on assessment practices/property tax. The study involved a recapitulation and an acceptance of the LWV-California positions on state and local finances. The specifics of this position are to be found in the Positions Folder published by the LWV California and therefore will not be included in this booklet. The 1974-77 study showed that the property tax is the major source of revenue for most local governments and that it was increasingly criticized as burdensome, inequitable and difficult to administer. Leaguers concluded after studying the strengths and weaknesses of the property tax* that it should be continued but made equitable and less burdensome. 

State law, the study also revealed, specifies that the county assessor is to be elected, but set no qualifications for the office or staff. State law also specifies that all property should be assessed at the same proportion to full market value, but the League learned that many county assessors have assessed different kinds of property at widely varying percentages of market value and that considerable variation exists from county to county in the average assessment of all property. Local members agreed that qualifications for assessor should be determined and that election of assessors should be continued to ensure their independence of the Board of Supervisors.

Large capital improvements, the study showed, are customarily financed through bonding. General obligation bonds are difficult to pass because they ordinarily require 2/3 vote of the electorate. Revenue bonds, which normally require a majority vote only, were feasible when the capital improvement was a revenue producing facility. More recent methods of capital improvement financing are lease-purchase and joint powers agreements. The latter methods do not require voter approval and tend to be more expensive borrowing methods. Members preferred bonding over the latter because of cost and of voter approval requirement. Members supported reducing the vote requirement because a “no” vote should not count for more than a “yes” vote, making the vote requirement too difficult. Local members diverged from the state League position in that they could not agree on the specific percentage desired.

*Proposition 13: an initiative, passed in 1978, amending the state constitution. It limited taxes levied on all real property to 1% of “full cash value” as of 1975-76 appraised value; limited increases in appraised value of real property to 2% per year until the property is sold; it requires a 2/3 vote of the legislature to increase the level of state taxes and prohibits the state from levying a property tax or a property sales transaction tax; it permits local governments to impose special taxes, except on real property, but only by a 2/3 vote of qualified electors. (NOTE: In 1982 the Supreme Court ruled that taxes may be levied in accordance with law enacted by the legislature as long as the special tax goes into the General Fund.)

PLEASE NOTE: Independent action by the LWV of Ventura County (or any local league) on tax issues is limited because the state League formulates the positions on taxes. Therefore, if a local league wishes to take action within its own boundaries, it must obtain permission from the state board of LWVC if the action has to do with money that goes to the state or comes back from the state. It must also obtain permission from the state board if any other governmental jurisdiction is involved. It could only take action on finances if the tax has nothing to do with state money or if no other jurisdiction is involved.

League to which this content belongs: 
Ventura County