Wednesday, July 29, 2009

San Francisco Assessor Phil Ting Speaks to BOMA San Francisco PAC Members

Picture retrieved from the Assessor's website, here.

San Francisco Assessor Phil Ting met with BOMA San Francisco PAC members on July 28th to discuss his push to modify Proposition 13 to create a split roll property tax. BOMA San Francisco and BOMA California strongly oppose a split roll tax, and the BOMA SF PAC Board questioned the wisdom of increasing taxes on businesses (which a split roll tax would do) during these tough economic times instead of reducing the size of state government.

The following are the highlights from the meeting:

What's the impetus behind creating split roll property tax?

  • Mr. Ting has seen first hand how school districts in San Francisco and the Bay Area have deteriorated since the passage of Proposition 13. His stated long-term objective in introducing this proposal is to raise enough revenues to rebuild California's aging infrastructure and improve its educational institutions. The Assessor said he wanted to pass on a better California to the next generation. For that to happen, Ting felt Prop 13 needed to be changed by creating a split roll tax structure for business properties. He did not advocate changing Prop 13’s protections for residential property owners.
  • The Assessor understood that setting up a split roll tax structure would not completely solve California's budget woes. In his opinion, California has a systemic budget problem that is in need of major reforms across the board. He cited the out of control ballot initiative process, and the 2/3 requirement to pass a state budget as two things that needed to be changed. He also acknowledged the need for state budget reforms that included greater efficiency measures.

What are BOMA San Francisco's objections to a split roll tax?

  • BOMA San Francisco is opposed to a split roll property tax because it would treat business and commercial properties differently from residential, which is unfair, and unequal treatment. Prior to Prop 13, and under Prop 13, both commercial and residential properties were/are assessed and levied per the same formula. Thus, each was/is equally protected under the law. Therefore, what the voting public bears is equally borne by non-voting commercial business entities. Once the property tax formulas for commercial property are segregated from those for residential property, then commercial property owners will no longer be equally protected, and there is no reason to believe that more and more unequal treatment will follow.
  • BOMA San Francisco is opposed to split roll because any increases in property taxes would be passed onto the tenants who (by and large) are small businesses.
  • BOMA is opposed to split roll because the current state of the economy, both in California, and locally, simply cannot handle any higher costs, including more taxes, at this time. In San Francisco, the commercial real estate industry is grappling with double digit vacancy rates (indeed, 2.8 Million square feet of San Francisco office space have been vacated since January 2008--the equivalent of 5 1/2 Pyramid Center buildings), and businesses are already relocating to more affordable and more business-friendly locales outside the Bay Area. San Francisco is already one of the most expensive places to do business in California due to its payroll tax, healthcare and sick leave requirements, and sky-high fees for any type of city permit.
  • BOMA is opposed to split roll, finally, because any money collected from such a tax would go to directly into the State's general fund, with very little of it coming back to localities for their infrastructure improvements and other needs.

The BOMA San Francisco Political Action Committee expressed its gratitude to Mr. Ting for his management and leadership as the county’s Assessor, and thanked him for sharing his thoughts on this topic, although we firmly oppose it. Mr. Ting invited the BOMA SF PAC to provide him with ideas to help balance future state budgets, and said he valued the close relationship he has with Ken Cleaveland, and the rest of the BOMA Advocacy team, and membership.

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