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Cityscape: Volume 22 Number 2 | Two Essays on Unequal Growth in Housing


Two Essays on Unequal Growth in Housing

Volume 22 Number 2

Mark D. Shroder
Michelle P. Matuga

Parcel Tax in California: Findings from New Data Sources

Soomi Lee
University of La Verne

This article examines parcel taxes in California counties, cities, and special districts. Unique to California, the parcel tax is commonly known as a lump-sum tax applied to parcels of real property to finance local public services. Some scholars and practitioners argue that the parcel tax can be a good source of local revenue because of its simplicity. Since the 1980s, parcel tax adoption has grown, despite requiring two-thirds approval in a local referendum. In 2018 alone, California had about 100 parcel tax elections. Despite the increase in adoption, scholars and practitioners have not had a good understanding of the nature and use of the parcel tax. I fill this gap by collecting and analyzing parcel tax ballot measures from 1995 through 2018. Since 2016, the state has mandated that local governments submit parcel tax financial reports, which I also use. I find that parcel tax structure is far more fragmented across local governments than previously understood.

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