Sacramento can't touch school parcel tax money | January 23, 2009 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

Newsfront - January 23, 2009

Sacramento can't touch school parcel tax money

Trustees mull over how much to ask from voters

by Harry Stoll

The San Ramon Valley school board heard a consultant emphasize that revenues from a proposed parcel tax would remain under local control, at the Sept. 13 meeting. He also strongly stated that the board should recommend a moderate amount for a parcel tax, which would replace the current one that expires June 30.

"From $128 to $144," would be the parcel tax comfort zone said Jared Boigon of EMC Research, the firm whose bar-chart report analyzed the results of 603 December telephone surveys with voters. He said to go higher would be risky.

"$128 is ridiculously low," said Realtor Chris Hopkins, who advocates a tax of at least $350.

That would yield approximately $15.4 million to make a significant dent in a projected deficit of $23 million. Hopkins said if the tax is set from $128 to $144, voters would still see steep cuts. He said talk of a recession is overblown and that his business is doing well. The expiring tax is $90.

Gary Ware, a business broker specializing in optometry businesses, supports a parcel tax even though, he reported, "Business is down dramatically." He is a board member of the San Ramon Education Foundation, and his two daughters-in-law are teachers in the district.

A tax of $144 is the recommendation of a parcel tax task force headed by Nancy Vandell that includes school board members Paul Gardner and Rachel Hurd, Superintendent Steven Enoch, assistant superintendents, and representatives from the PTA and from unions.

"There's a certain segment of voters who are opposed to public education and will always vote No," said Trustee Greg Marvel, who estimated them to be around 20 percent.

And, he said, about half the voters will always vote Yes. The undecided voters should be the target of any effort, he said. He said he will try to persuade the board to recommend a tax much higher than the recommended $144.

Board President Bill Clarkson and board members Gardner and Hurd were more cautious.

"Personally, I'm inclined to recommend an amount around $144, despite the fact that we could use so much more," wrote Gardner in a post-meeting e-mail. He believes that while a majority would support more, a two-thirds vote is required and it's just too risky.

"We are still gathering input from the community at the remaining Community Forums," wrote Hurd. The forums were scheduled for Jan. 12, 15, 20 and 22.

"I have not yet decided on the amount I would support," wrote Clarkson. He said the board would make its recommendation at its Jan. 27 open meeting.

The parcel tax is levied on each property in the School District, and is the same amount regardless of assessed valuation. Assistant Superintendent, Business, Gary Black said it is the only way to override the restrictions of Proposition 13.

Vandell pointed out that senior and disabled parcel owners would be exempt, the tax would last seven years, and there would be an oversight committee.

The consultant said any amount would be a hard sell. He recommended a robust, privately financed campaign to solidify support, which right now is at a touch-and-go two-thirds. Measure D last June asked for $166 and was defeated, with 63 percent voting in favor of it.

The school board will set the proposed amount for the parcel tax at its Jan. 27 meeting.


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