Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the Park Charter Fund?

The Park Charter Fund is a portion of the County’s property tax revenue that has been allocated by the voters for maintaining and operating, expanding, and improving the County Parks.  It is not a tax and it does not affect your tax bill one way other the other.  Rather, it is direction from you the voters to the County government, telling them that a small but fixed portion of the revenue is to be dedicated for the County Park system.  We the voters of Santa Clara County first approved the Park Charter Fund in 1972, and we have voted six times in a row since then to renew it, most recently in 2006.

Why is the Park Charter Fund important?

The County Parks need a stable source of funding.  It can take years to acquire land for a park, and then to design and build the parking lots, trails, restroom facilities, etc., so that it can be safe for the public.  Once built, the parks are then open to the public for ever afterwards.  Without the Park Charter Fund, the money allocated to the Parks could vary from year to year, depending on the inclination of the then-current Board of Supervisors.  It could be more one year or less another.  This could waste taxpayer’s money if new facilities were to be built one year and then forced to be closed the following due to a budget fluctuation.  The Park Charter Fund provides a stable source of funding for the development, maintenance, and operation of all the County Parks.

What happens if the Park Charter Fund is not renewed?

Your taxes would not be reduced. 

The current Park Charter Fund, approved by the voters in 2006, would remain in effect until is sunsets in fiscal year 2021; after that, the Board of Supervisors would be free to allocate less funding for the park system, depending on the current financial conditions and the other demands on funding.

Why renew the Park Charter Fund now?

The Park Charter Fund evolves over the years.  Initially, when the park system was small and in need of land, the voters dedicated a majority of the Park Charter Fund towards acquiring additional land for the parks.

Over the years, as the park system has expanded, the voters approved allocating a larger portion of the Fund for the operation and maintenance of the expanded park system.

It was realized that there is more to parks than just buying the land and then having park rangers: it takes money to first develop it, to create the parking lots and develop the trails and build the restrooms.

When most recently renewed in 2006, the voters approved allocating 5% of the Fund for “Capital Improvements” – for the trails, restrooms, parking lots, etc.

The County Parks presently has more land purchased than it is able to develop and open up to the public, so it is asking now to have the voters approve allocating a larger portion of the Fund for the Capital Improvements.

What are the changes this time in the Park Charter Fund?

From 1988 to 2002, the property tax set-aside for the Fund was $0.015 per $100 of Assessed Valuation (AV), but in 2002 it was reduced by 5% to $0.01425/$100 AV.  This June, the voters are being asked to restore the funding to the prior $0.015 level.

Also, since 1988, the portion of the Fund allocated for Operation and Maintenance has been capped at 80% of the Fund – and that will not change.  But the remaining 20% of the Fund initially was entirely for land acquisition; in 2006 it was changed to 15% acquisition and 5% Capital Improvements, and you are now being asked this June to change it to 10% acquisition and 10% Capital Improvements.

The measure is to take effect July 1, 2017 and sunset 15 years later.

Less money for Acquisition?

While the portion of the Fund for Acquisition is less, the overall fund is being increased, which somewhat offsets the effect.  Also, the 10% allocation is a voter-guaranteed minimum, and can be increased by the Parks Dept. if an unforeseen opportunity for parkland acquisition were to arise.

Also, the County Parks now has partners.  When the Park Charter Fund was first established in 1972, the County Parks Department was the only agency that could protect land from development.  Since then, the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District and the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority have been established to also preserve land, primarily for environmental protection and with less public access.  The State and the Federal governments help preserve open as well, with Coe State Park and the Don Edwards SF Bay Wildlife Refuge.  County Parks is thus freed up to concentrate more on lands for public use – Parks – and leaving the acquisition of lands for habitat protection to the other agencies.

How can I help?

Tell your friends and neighbors!

Endorse the Park Charter Fund!

Contact us if you have any questions or would like us to give a brief presentation to your group or event.