More than 20 measures headed to Santa Clara County voters

With the March election just a couple months away, the final list of countywide ballot measures that voters will decide include 21 initiatives, asking voters to weigh in on everything from a new property tax in the Bay Area’s largest city to a slew of school bond measures.

Here is a look at ten of the biggest measures on the ballot this year.

Measure C: Santa Clara voters will decide whether to split the city into three districts for City Council elections after the city was sued over its at-large voting system.

Santa Clara is one of several California cities that was taken to court for allowing voters to elect councilmembers to represent the entire city — instead of smaller districts — a system opponents claim stifles the voices of minority voters and violates the California Voters Rights Act of 2001. A judge sided against Santa Clara and ordered it to temporarily divide the city into six districts, but city leaders subsequently created a citizens committee to come up with a permanent plan. It recommended three districts, a measure which won the support of four Santa Clara councilmembers but still needs voter approval.

The measure needs a majority vote to pass.

Measure E: San Jose voters will be asked whether to pass a real property transfer tax on sales of $2 million or more to fund affordable housing. The measure, which San Jose lawmakers approved for the ballot in a 8-2 vote in November, is expected to bring the city $70 million each year until it is repealed.

Opponents expressed concerns with tax fatigue and an inability to ensure that the money would go toward housing.

Silicon Valley Taxpayers Association Vice President Pete Constant adds that the measure is “oxymoronic” given that it raises the cost of housing. “You’re taxing the very thing you’re trying to alleviate which makes no sense at all,” he said.

Supporters, however, argue that funds are sorely needed given an ever-worsening housing crisis.

The measure needs a majority vote to pass.

“I believe in fiscal responsibility but it’s hard to exercise when the members of this council are given very limited opportunities to exercise discretion, when we are, as a city, facing annually $20 million in shortfalls and really trying to get things done with what little we can,” said Councilmember Lan Diep at the Nov. 19 meeting.

Measure J: If passed by San Jose voters, this measure would provide East Side Union High School District employees with below-market housing on roughly 4.5 acres of district-owned land. Proponents say the $60 million bond measure is key to keeping high quality teachers and staff in the district given the high cost-of-housing in the area.

Opponents say school districts shouldn’t be in the business of building housing for teachers or other employees.

However, East Side Union High School District Superintendent Chris Funk says affordable housing is the key to hiring — and retaining — the district’s workforce, from teachers to clerks and school bus drivers.

“For the average voter in east side we’re talking about $15 to $18 a year to support employee housing,” Funk told San José Spotlight on Thursday. “So it’s something that in the long run will benefit our entire community.”

This measure requires 55 percent of the vote to pass.

Measure K: Campbell, San Jose and Saratoga voters will weigh an 8-year, $298 annual parcel tax to support the Campbell Union High School District by increasing teacher salaries, as well as bolstering engineering, computer science and health care related curriculum and providing students with mental health and suicide prevention services. It is expected to bring the district $16.6 million annually.

It requires a two-third majority vote to pass.

Measure M: Another school board measure, this initiative would raise $80 million for the Moreland School District in San Jose to help fund improvements in the district’s elementary and middle schools — everything from fixing leaky roofs to classroom construction and new technology. The measure would cost homeowners in the district $30 per $100,000 assessed value.

This measure requires 55 percent of the vote to pass.

Measure Q: Union School District in San Jose seeks to levy $149 annually for six years in order to maintain “strong programs in reading, writing, science, technology, engineering, arts, and math” for the elementary and middle school students, according to the official ballot language. It also aims to attract and maintain high quality teachers.

This measure requires 2/3 of the vote to pass.

Measure R: This measure, which will be on the ballot for San Jose voters, would benefit the Franklin-McKinley School District. School officials want to issue $80 million in bonds to raise $5.2 million every year until 2050. The money would go toward constructing new classrooms and modernizing old ones, improving various facilities, fields and access for students with disabilities. Homeowners in the district would pay 3 cents per $100 assessed value.

This measure would require 55 percent of the vote to pass.

Measure S: Similar to Measure R, this initiative would ask San Jose voters to consider a $132 per parcel tax for nine years to benefit the Oak Grove School District. The funds will be used for expanding their math, science and technology curriculum, providing physical education programs and to maintain adequate staffing.

This measure would require two thirds of the vote to pass.

Measure U: San Jose voters will be asked to approve a $98 million bond measure to replace aging fire alarms, construct new classrooms and other updates in the Berryessa Union High School District. This $98 million bond measure would levy nearly $30 per $100,000 assessed value on homeowners and requires 55 percent of the vote to pass.

Measure V: Also in San Jose, voters will consider passing this measure, which seeks to bolster computer technology and update classrooms in the Evergreen School District with a $125 million bond. Tax rates would average around 3 cents per $100 of assessed value over the course of 18 years.

“Measure V will upgrade classroom technology throughout the district while improving student safety and campus security at Evergreen School District’s elementary and middle schools,” Evergreen School District officials wrote in their statement for the measure.

Opponents argue, however, that the original intent behind bond measures is being stretched.

“Bonds are designed for long-term capital projects where the projects will last just as long or longer than the financing period,” Constant said. “The technology infrastructure that will be implemented will be obsolete long before the bonds are paid for.”

The measure requires 55 percent of the vote to pass.

Contact Carina Woudenberg at carinaw86@gmail.com or follow @carinaew on Twitter.

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