If approved by two-thirds of the votes cast in this special mail-in ballot election, each parcel of taxable real property in the school district will be assessed $98 a year for a total of four years. For purposes of this special tax, "parcel" means any parcel of land that receives a separate tax bill from the Alameda County tax collector, large or small.
This will be the second time that the Pleasanton school district has asked voters to approve a parcel tax. Measure G, which sought approval of a $233 a year parcel tax, was defeated in June 2009, with just 61.7% of the total number of votes cast, or less than two-thirds, supporting it. This time, the school board hired a consulting firm to conduct a public survey, which showed that more than two-thirds of those queried would support a parcel tax of under $100, but not a higher amount. The board chose to set the proposed tax at $98 and also to limit it to four years at the most.
Faced with a budget deficit of $7.7 million, the school district needs this parcel tax to continue quality education in Pleasanton. Frankly, we wished the district would have asked for more because this tax will bring in only about $2 million annually for the next four years. The school district has already made tentative cuts in personnel, with 67 teachers, 25 school staff and 17 administrators and other services on the chopping block for a total of $3.5 million unless more funds come in. Measure E will not prevent all of the cuts, but it could prevent the most devastating by providing stable and predictable funding.
With Gov. Jerry Brown's decision last Tuesday to call off negotiations for legislative approval of his much-touted special election in June to extend higher taxes on income, vehicles and sales, hopes are dimming for school districts around the state, including Pleasanton's, to see an uptick in state education funds our schools so desperately need. The Pleasanton district, skeptical anyhow that the Brown plan would succeed, has moved forward on preparing a fiscal 2011-12 budget without any of the increases his tax measure might have produced.
Still, with millions of dollars in new state cuts looming, we cannot allow Pleasanton's high-performing schools to decline. As parents, students and property owners in Pleasanton, it is in our collective interest to continue having schools that are among the best in the state, that attract and retain highly qualified teachers, that stress continued improvement in math, science and reading skills, that keep school libraries open and class sizes as low as the district can afford. Measure E mandates that no funds from the parcel tax can be used to increase teacher of administrator salaries or benefits, and establishes an independent oversight committee to review the use of the funds and report its finding publicly.
When your Measure E ballot arrives next week, vote Yes and mail the ballot back promptly.