Prop. J, a parcel tax to fund public schools, looks set to pass

San Francisco voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly reaffirmed their support for a parcel tax to fund public schools, freeing funds collected...

San Francisco voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly reaffirmed their support for a parcel tax to fund public schools, freeing funds collected from a 2018 measure held up in court.

Proposition J received 75 percent of the vote in first election results released early Wednesday. It needs two-thirds of the vote to pass.

The measure would implement a $288 annual parcel tax to bring an estimated $48 million annually to the San Francisco Unified School District and would repeal a similar $320 parcel tax approved in June 2018 that has been held up in litigation. The district has fronted negotiated educator salary increases dependent on revenue from the 2018 measure, but faces a structural deficit exacerbated by the pandemic.

The initial salary increases were needed to retain educators burdened by San Francisco’s high cost of living.

SFUSD faces a $22 million deficit for the current fiscal year, helped by $15 million from The City budget, and a $66 million deficit for the following year. It has estimated that it could cost up to $84 million to bring students back to campus during the coronavirus pandemic.

If the votes don’t hold, funds from the June 2018 Prop. G will remain under litigation, with plaintiffs arguing that it needed to pass by a two-thirds majority rather than a simple majority. But a recent California Supreme Court ruling in favor of a 2018 voter-approved tax for homelessness, which also passed by a simple majority, has given Prop. G a rosier outlook.