http://danvillesanramon.com/print/story/print/2009/02/06/school-parcel-tax-going-to-a-vote


DanvilleSanRamon.com

Newsfront - February 6, 2009

School parcel tax going to a vote

Mail-in election to take place this spring for $144 per year

by Geoff Gillette

In an effort to combat expected cutbacks in state funding and protect current programs, the San Ramon Valley school board approved placing a parcel tax measure on the ballot this spring.

At their meeting last week, trustees OK'd an annual property parcel tax of $144, an increase from the current tax of $90, which expires June 30.

"This measure is essential to keep our schools among the best in the state. Our academic programs and qualified teachers prepare our students to succeed and be competitive in a global economy," said Superintendent Steven Enoch. "Most importantly, this funding goes straight to our schools and cannot be taken by the state."

This is the second year in a row that the district has sought to pass the tax. Last year, a parcel tax measure of $166 failed to pass with 63 percent of the vote. Any such tax measure requires a two-thirds majority in order to pass.

At last week's meeting some residents called for a higher amount on the parcel tax, but trustees felt that asking for the lower figure gave it a better chance of passing.

"We know that this will not come close to bridging the gap we are seeing in state funding, but we want the voters of the community to know that we listened to them and that we fully understand the impact of the slumping economy," said Enoch. "We really need support from the community to renew our local funding, especially in light of the drastic cuts we face from the State."

Officials said that there will be annual audits and a citizen's oversight committee to make sure the funds are being spent on district programs. In addition, none of the parcel tax money can be spent on administrative salaries.

"Good schools are critical to the overall vitality of a community, and we know that our schools are a major reason why people choose to buy a home in the San Ramon Valley," said Bill Clarkson, president of the San Ramon Valley Unified School District Board of Education. "This measure will help us maintain this tradition of academic excellence, as well as protect property values during these unstable financial times."

The board recently held four workshops to discuss the parcel tax and what needed to be done to get it passed. One area of concern was that many seniors over 65 and those with disabilities were unaware that there is an exemption available to them. Officials have said that is something that they will be working to inform the public about during the next several months.

Mail-in ballots will be sent to voters in April. Officials said that the ballots must be completed and turned in by the end of April to be counted in the May 5 election.

Many PTA's and other school groups have begun rallying behind the measure. At some schools parents are already collecting funds to help pay the cost of running the campaign this year.

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