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New California Split Roll Measure Qualifies For November Ballot

A high-profile California ballot measure that would bring nonresidential property taxes up to market rate has officially qualified for the November ballot.

Schools & Communities First, the organization backed by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, submitted more than 1.7 million signatures in April to qualify the measure. That far surpassed the 997,000 required by state law.

Sacramento Capitol
Sacramento Capitol building

If passed, the California Tax on Commercial and Industrial Properties for Education and Local Government Funding Initiative (more commonly known as the Prop. 13 "split roll" measure) would be amended to require retail, office and industrial property owners in the state to be taxed based on the building's market value and not its acquisition price.

Agriculture areas and certain small-business owners will be exempted.

Officials said the $12B estimated money generated from the increased property taxes would go toward local schools and community colleges.  

The revamped legislation goes before voters just as property owners, state and local municipalities are reeling from the impacts of the coronavirus and reporting huge budget shortfalls. Many businesses have either closed or limited operating hours to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.  

"As school districts, local governments and the state face historic budget shortfalls, one thing is clear: Schools & Communities First will be key to California’s recovery and reinvestment, and we simply can’t afford corporate tax loopholes at the expense of our state’s future," Schools & Communities First officials said in a statement. 

In California, a commercial property is taxed at 1% of the purchase price and can increase 2% or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower, per year. Once the property is sold, the building is reassessed at the current market value.

Schools & Communities First officials said the number of signatures they've gathered, along with more and more backing from city governments reveals the demand for this measure. 

Opponents of the measure said an added tax will drive up the cost of operating a business and goods and could ruin many small businesses in the state that are already grappling with the financial ramifications of the coronavirus.