The San Ramon Valley school board held preliminary discussions on whether to seek an extension of the Measure C parcel tax, learning the results of a recent phone survey of voters and receiving a refresher on the renewal process Tuesday morning.
The $144 parcel tax, approved by San Ramon Valley voters in May 2009, is scheduled to sunset in June 2016 -- which school district officials say would result in a loss of $6.8 million annually from the district budget.
School board members have not taken a formal stance on whether to ask voters to renew the parcel tax, but they have begun the process of examining the feasibility of potentially putting the issue on the ballot next May.
Those efforts included a phone survey of 600 local voters conducted July 7-13 by consultant firm EMC Research. The results were shared publicly during the school board meeting Tuesday morning in Danville.
"We see very strong support for continuing the existing tax rate," EMC Research representative Ruth Bernstein said. "But there is definitely a hesitancy to increasing taxes."
Survey respondents were split into two samples, with half being asked about renewing the tax at $144 for seven years and the other half considering an increase to $216 per year for seven years.
Each set of interviewees was asked four different times about the proposed tax amount, with the $144 tax support ranging from 70-79% and the $216 receiving 60-67% support. To pass, the parcel tax would need approval from two-thirds of the voters.
Respondents weighed in on the tax question at the outset of the survey (with the $144 amount receiving 70% support and $216 at 61%), and then again after being reminded of the current tax rate ($144 at 78%, and $216 at 60%), after receiving positive messages about the proposal ($144 at 79%, and $216 at 67%) and finally after listening to negative messages ($144 at 75%, and $216 at 61%).
Bernstein said the survey results incorporated input across age, ethnic and geographic spectra, and included respondents using cell phones (9%) as well as landline telephones (91%). In addition to parcel tax questions, respondents gave their thoughts about the school district as a whole.
"It's this polling and this preliminary information that helps me as a board member know whether or not I can go back out to (the voters) and know what they're feeling on a grand scale," board vice president Denise Jennison said.
Following the survey presentation, the school board received an update on the renewal time-line should it pursue putting the issue on the May ballot. Sarah Stern-Benoit, of consultant firm TBWB Strategies, outlined the five-step process ahead.
The district is currently in the middle of the first step, studying the feasibility of the issue, Stern-Benoit said. To follow would be receiving community input and building consensus, drafting a strong ballot measure, voter identification and persuasion, and lastly voting on Election Day, she added.
To qualify for the May 5 ballot, the school board would have to call for an election on the parcel tax by early February, according to Stern-Benoit.
She also reminded school board members that any public outreach by the district on the issue must be informational-only, non-advocacy communications because "the district cannot use public funds or resources to run the campaign."
Board member Greg Marvel was absent from Tuesday morning's meeting.
In other business, roughly a dozen Alamo residents turned out Tuesday to share their thoughts about the Stone Valley Middle School reconstruction project -- an item that was not listed on the board's agenda.
Six people spoke during public comment on non-agendized items, with four telling the board they opposed the initial design concept and two advocating in favor of the proposed layout. The school board endorsed a conceptual site layout for the project in May.
The two supporters Tuesday said they liked the idea of adding a modernized two-story building to the Alamo campus. The quartet of opponents said they weren't notified about the design process, and some contended the proposed concept would reduce property values, negatively impact traffic and heighten public safety concerns.
The reconstruction project, which officials hope to start next summer, remains in the design phase, according to school district representatives.