http://danvillesanramon.com/print/story/print/2008/02/22/school-board-looks-at-parcel-tax-for-june-ballot


Danville Express

Newsfront - February 22, 2008

School board looks at parcel tax for June ballot

State budget slashes motivate new approach by trustees

by Natalie O'Neill

Parents and developers from the San Ramon Valley told the school board they support a parcel tax, after last month's sweeping statewide cut in education. They advocated giving the school district local control of funding.

Developers stressed that strong school districts bump up property value, while parents emphasized the quality of education will go down without proper resources.

"I really think it's valid and valuable and necessary," said Patty Hoyt, parent of two high school students.

The parcel tax discussed at the Feb. 5 meeting would increase the annual cost from $90 to $158 per parcel and would be in effect for five to seven years. The district is looking at putting the tax on the June 3 ballot, although the school board hasn't officially approved it.

School board trustees called the parcel tax a "no-brainer" and a "slam dunk," and stressed that it will affect every property owner and resident.

Trustee Greg Marvel, who pointed out he is a fiscal conservative, explained part of that rational.

"I am not fond of raising taxes. There has to be a darn good reason," he said. "For those who don't like taxes at all, here's an opportunity to have an impact on your bottom line."

"Be selfish and vote for a parcel tax," he added, explaining its positive effect on property value.

Last month, after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced the state education budget will be slashed by $4.3 billion in the 2008-2009 school year, the district initiated a spending freeze. To many parents in the district, this alone was enough of a reason to increase the tax.

The statewide budget cut could have an $8 million impact on the district next year.

In order for the parcel tax to be implemented, two-thirds of the voters who cast a ballot would need to support it.

During the school board discussion, no audience member verbally opposed the idea of a parcel tax. However, a $90 parcel tax in 2003 to support school libraries and counseling services did fail by less than 1 percent.

The district expects that passing the tax is going to be tough, said district spokesman Terry Koehne.

They'll have to convince people like Joe Rubay, an Alamo member of the Contra Costa County Republican Party.

"I'm afraid that schools need to show a real need and also show how they are controlling their costs before we increase taxes on the population," Rubay said. "It's the principal of taxing people more without really presenting the proper case for it."

A survey of 600 people conducted by telephone through an independent research organization hired by the district showed there is "a good solid base" in support of a parcel tax in San Ramon Valley.

The survey was taken of residents, both with and without students in the district, to get a sense of the area's overall attitude toward the district and a parcel tax.

School board trustees expressed a growing desire to become less dependent on the state for funding.

"We've been rationing down for so long, there's not much left to cut," said Trustee Joan Buchanan. "The community has to step up."

Contact Natalie O'Neill at noneill@danvilleweekly.com

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