School district spokesman Terry Koehne said the issue revolves around a parcel tax approved in April 2004 that will be expiring this year. Under the current tax, residents pay $90 per year, which goes to fund several programs in the district. Those include class size reductions, school librarians, counselors at the middle and high school levels, and the fifth-grade instrumental music program.
"The main message here is that this is something that is critical for us in order for us to preserve the quality of education in this community. It is imperative that we renew this measure," Koehne explained.
Koehne said the board has been discussing the issue for the last several months and was wrestling with whether to put the issue on the ballot in March, May or June.
At its last regular meeting the board directed staff to look into the feasibility of a March election
"We looked into it and it is just too soon. It wouldn't allow for a substantial enough campaign and would limit our campaign time to only a month or so," Koehne said.
Board members unanimously approved pushing ahead for a May 5 date for the election, which will be conducted solely through mail-in ballot. Koehne said the election will present some advantages and some challenges.
"The May (mail-in) election is about $200,000 cheaper to do. They're easier to process, you don't have to staff the polling places or incur all those incidental costs." He added, "It's risky though, from the standpoint that we've never done one before."
Board members also approved the hiring of TBWD strategies for election consultation and EMC Research to conduct a survey of area residents before the issue goes to the ballot.
"We'll be surveying people around specific questions regarding the length of the term of the tax, the amount ... issues that will let us fine tune the ballot language before it goes to the voters," Koehne said.
The survey is expected to be conducted over the next two months, with a resolution officially placing the parcel tax issue on the ballot expected to come sometime in late January.