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In-Depth: New tax proposed to fund City of San Diego park, library improvements

Tax would be on 2024 ballot
Posted at 6:11 AM, Apr 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-29 10:17:17-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A new ballot initiative hopes to raise more than $1 billion to fund upgrades for the City of San Diego's parks and libraries.

The Libraries and Parks Investment Act of 2024 would create a .02/square foot parcel tax throughout the city. Supporters say that could raise $40 million-45 million per year to help bring the parks and libraries up to modern standards, and beyond.

"Who doesn't like parks? Who doesn't like libraries?" asks Michel Anderson, the Chair of the San Diego Parks Foundation. "Who doesn't understand and see the benefit of improving our parks and our libraries?"

The Parks Foundation teamed up with the San Diego Library Foundation to bring the initiative to the 2024 ballot. They plan to begin gathering signatures in mid-July.

"The 2024 election cycle will bring out more voters," says Patrick Stewart, the Library Foundation CEO. "We want as many voters, as many citizens as possible to come out and put their mark on this kind of initiative."

According to recent city studies, the Parks system has $212 million of backlogged maintenance and capital improvement projects. The Library system has another $50 million.

Meanwhile, those same studies found that 57 of San Diego's 235 parks, as well as 16 of the 35 libraries, were in "poor" or "fair" condition.

The initiative hopes to eliminate that backlog and create funding for continual upgrades.

"We're trying to bring those parks and those communities up to 21st century standards," says Anderson.

The group hopes to gather 120,000 signatures by the end of 2022. That would qualify the initiative for the 2024 ballot and give them nearly two full years to build support before the election. Because it's a citizen's initiative, it would only need a simple majority to pass.

The tax would last for 30 years and could bring in as much as $1.2 billion.

Anderson and Stewart say tying the tax to property size instead of property value is a more equitable way of spreading out the cost.

Agricultural land and any property over 43,000 square feet would be exempt.

The ballot measure would also create an oversight committee to make sure the money is only spent on the parks and libraries, and not diverted to other parts of the City Budget. Language in the initiative also ensures that the money from the parcel tax supplements existing library and park funding, rather than replacing it.

"We're talking about ensuring that we have a sustainable revenue source that's going to that's going to both protect the future of the parks and library department and also enhance them," says Stewart.

"We figure we only have one shot at this," adds Anderson. "We want to see an overwhelming passage of this initiative."