The San Ramon Valley school board endorsed two state propositions that would increase funding for public schools in California in the short-term, while also calling on state legislators to focus more on developing long-term, stable funding solutions for public education statewide.
Board members agreed Tuesday that while not perfect, the $9 billion Proposition 51 state education facilities bond and Proposition 55 -- an extension of temporary income taxes on high-earners -- would provide vital funding for local schools if approved by California voters in November.
"Part of me really wanted to oppose this," board member Denise Jennison said of Prop. 55. "But because I am a trustee of this district and I know that we need this money because three years out we're hosed if we don't have it, I am going to support it."
"It's another Band-Aid. What has the state done to really stabilize funding sources for us, so we're not having to count on these Band-Aids?" board clerk Ken Mintz added about Prop. 55, among a variety of comments from board members critical of the state legislature's efforts on education funding.
Prop. 55 would extend for 12 more years temporary personal income tax increases on high-income earners approved by state voters in 2012 as part of Proposition 30 to fund education -- with Prop. 55 also providing funding for health care.
Prop. 51 would authorize the state to issue $9 billion in general obligation bonds to fund facility construction and improvements at K-12 schools and community colleges in the state, with $6 billion earmarked for new construction and modernizations for public schools.
The school board unanimously approved separate resolutions in support of each ballot measure, with Prop. 55 drawing about three times as much public debate from the board during its regular meeting Tuesday night in Danville.
The half-hour Prop. 55 discussion focused on themes tied to a phrase board members decided to bold in that resolution -- where they urged the state legislature "to work with the public education community to identify stable, long-term, adequate funding solutions for public schools."
The proposition aims to extend the Prop 30 temporary income tax on high-income earners that is scheduled to be phased out starting in 2018 and then expire in 2019. The sales tax component of Prop 30, a 0.25% statewide sales tax, is set to expire at the end of this year.
"Prop. 30 was a Band-Aid to our system," Mintz said.
"Unfortunately the legislature has not done enough, in my estimation, in this period of time to keep us from having to have a Prop. 55," he added. "We need it; we absolutely need it. When we look at our three-year-out (projections), we see the drop-off that says we will be in trouble without this passing."
The Prop. 55 tax applies to single-filer incomes over $250,000, joint-filer incomes over $500,000 and head-of-household incomes over $340,000, with specific tax rates different depending on which of four high-income tax brackets residents fall into.
State officials estimate the tax extension would generate between $4 billion and $9 billion per year from 2019-30, depending on economic conditions. Tax revenues would be allocated at 89% to K-12 schools and 11% to community colleges, with up to $2 billion in certain years for health care programs.
Jennison pointed out that the health care component is new, something that wasn't included in Prop. 30.
She also noted that for the San Ramon Valley, Prop. 30 "didn't save us ... It didn't provide new jobs; it sustained us. It kept us status quo, so to speak, through really hard times where otherwise cuts would have been made."
Scott Anderson, the district's chief business officer, described 2012's Prop. 30 as having "put a floor under education funding when we were in kinda the depths of the darkness at that point."
And board members said they see the lack of new, long-term funding sources for education statewide in the wake of Prop. 30 as troublesome.
"When you look at Prop. 55, it's a very clear signal that our legislature has failed us," said Mark Jewett, board vice president.
Jewett said he considers the Prop. 55 income tax an unstable funding source for public education because high-earner incomes tend to go down during tough economic times.
"We have a tax that I may not necessarily agree with from a tax policy perspective, but we have to it ... We need the funds," he added. "This is not a fix-all, but this is what we need."
Board president Greg Marvel concurred, saying, "I'm not going to vote against something that ultimately is the best of the worst choices that we have out there. We have no choice."
Marvel added that the state needs a long-term funding solution, so education stakeholders need to "push for people to get elected in Sacramento who are no longer going to put the educational future of our kids in a can and kick it down the road."
The board heard from two teachers union officials and one classified union representative who all urged an endorsement of Prop. 55.
The only resident speaker was Scott Seidenverg, a Danville man and Vista Grande Elementary School parent who encouraged the board to amend its resolution on Prop. 55 to ask residents to make sure "are we all paying our fair share" when it comes to taxes. He cited specifically taxes for side jobs and for online sales for purchases from out of state.
The board didn't make the change, with Jewett saying he thought Seidenverg's sentiment was expressed in the board's call for state legislators to work with stakeholders to find "stable, long-term, adequate funding solutions."
Board member Rachel Hurd added, "We should take a little pride. We work hard and our taxes pay for good stuff. Taxes do not have to be viewed as an evil thing. They are a necessary part of a civilized society."
Earlier in Tuesday's meeting, the school board spent about 10 minutes discussing the $9 billion Prop. 51 school facilities bond before endorsing it.
Bond proceeds would be allocated with $3 billion for new school construction, $3 billion for school facility modernization, $2 billion for community college facilities, $500 million for charter school facilities and $500 million for facilities for career technical education programs.
State officials estimate it would cost the state about $17.6 billion to pay off the principal and interest on the bonds, with payments of about $500 million per year for 35 years from the state's general fund.
The bond proceeds could be used to fund future projects as well as to reimburse districts for prior projects for which the state could not offer matching funds, according to Gary Black, assistant superintendent of facilities and maintenance.
The district has identified $280 million in unfunded facility needs that could benefit from state bond proceeds -- not immediate needs but projects required in the next 10 to 15 years, Black said.
He added that some prior district projects could qualify for reimbursement from the state if the new bond passes, based under the previous state-matching rules.
Mintz wondered how much of the $6 billion for local schools would be available for new projects after the state uses the bond to provide late reimbursement for eligible prior projects, noting, "There is a tremendous backlog already in place, not just in this district but across the state."
Jennison was critical of the state legislature's level of commitment to K-12 school facilities.
"This is how we fund facilities in California," she said of Prop. 51. "I think it is an unfortunate turn of events; this came up through the initiative process because we couldn't get anybody in the legislature to get anything on the ballot to get the state to step up and accept their responsibility for facilities for our children and the public education system."
She added, "This initiative is important and necessary and will benefit the students of the San Ramon Valley."