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Yes or no?

Submitted by on 1, April 4, 2008 – 11:05 pmNo Comment

On June 3, we’ll be deciding whether to approve Measure H, which calls for a four-year, $120 per year parcel tax on homeowners for Alameda’s schools. Proponents of the measure say it is necessary to preserve programs in the face of more than $4 million in proposed state budget cuts to the school district; opponents question how the money will be used and say the state’s inequitable funding formulas should be fixed instead. Bill Sonneman and Tom Pavletic have kindly provided us with arguments for and against Measure H, which are listed below. You can view the text of the measure here. It requires a two-thirds “yes” vote to pass.

In favor of the parcel tax, Bill Sonneman:
The proposed AUSD budget cuts are a result of an unfair, complex state school funding system. Waiting for the state to rework the system will prove detrimental to Alameda schools.

Districts throughout our state are rallying to save school programs. Alameda has a chance with the passage of Measure H to help ease our funding woes. A parcel tax will not solve the funding crisis, but will delay further cuts and give our school community time to keep pursuing the equalization of funding that Alameda schools deserve.

All proposed cuts will hurt not only today’s students, but future students as well. For 12 years, I served our district as principal of Wood Middle School and Encinal High School. Test scores rose at both schools. Wood became a California Distinguished School and Encinal’s API scores increased more than 150 points. The proposed cuts would make it difficult, if not impossible, to continue the programs that enabled these results.

Students need athletics, music, AP classes and academic assistance. School enrollment will certainly decrease if these programs are compromised or eliminated. As a high school principal, I emphasized school pride, reminding students to allow their actions to exhibit pride. As community members, allow your YES vote for Measure H to exhibit pride in Alameda’s public schools.

Bill Sonneman
Retired Principal, Encinal High School

And for the opposing view, Tom Pavletic:
Yes or No. All thought and action distills to that one choice on the ballot. How one arrives at that choice depends on the information they have about the tax issue and how they value that information. Based on what I read in the news media and hear from others, not many voters know, for example, that some district employees received salary increases on January 1 and are slated to get additional salary and benefit increases July 1 and December 1. My goal is to provide information to voters that is relevant to the Yes/No choice and is not being provided by others. The information in the nine points that follow is factual information or questions about the information.

1. The school district wants you to believe that cutting core programs and academic instruction or raising taxes are their ONLY options. They are NOT. In fact, throughout this “budget crisis” employee salaries and benefits have increased and will continue to do so.

2. The district already assesses homeowners a $189 parcel tax PLUS a $235 tax (for a $500,000 home). For a newer home in Alameda, the two existing taxes plus the new $120 parcel tax could total almost $700 per year! Housing in Alameda will become even less affordable than it is now.

3. The district’s current budget is about $78 million for about 9,800 students, over $8,000 per student. The district’s spending per student is more than the K-8 tuition at the Chinese Christian School or St. Joseph’s Elementary School.

4. How is an expenditure increase of $9.5 million transformed into $7.7 million of budget cuts? A recent letter from Ardella Dailey, school district superintendent, states the district “… has cut $7.7 million from [its] budget over the last seven years …” But financial data submitted by the district to the California Department of Education (CDE) show district expenditures increased from $71,164,000 in 1999-2000 to $80,702,000 in 2006-2007 (see http://www.ed-data.k12.ca.us/). How do seven years of budget cuts result in increased expenditures?

5. Salaries and benefits have increased $15.3 million from $51,149,000 in 1999-2000 to $66,452,000 in 2006-2007, a 30% increase (see the CDE website). A temporary 3% cut could provide about $2,000,000 in revenue. Eliminating the salary increase of two months ago could add about another $200,000. Instead of a “temporary” tax, why not a “temporary” decrease in salaries and benefits?

6. This new tax will fund additional salary and benefit increases. School district employees will continue to get salary and benefit increases during this “budget crisis.” There were salary increases on January 1. Additional salary and benefit increases are scheduled for July 1 and December 1.

7. The district wants to raise your taxes to increase their paychecks. High school principals – who work 10 months per year – have a top salary of $115,000. That amount does not include generous benefits. What is your salary and benefit package?

8. The state’s school system revenue agreements have been broken for decades. Dublin students receive almost $1,000 per year more from the state than Alameda students. Why has this inequity continued since the Navy base closed? Why aren’t protesters leading the fight to eliminate THIS VERY REAL INEQUITY? With about 9,800 students it could result in nearly $1 million per year!

9. The state should allocate the same amount for the education of each child no matter where they live. Another tax on Alameda property owners will not fix the state’s broken financing system or motivate the district to fundamentally change their operations.

Tom Pavletic
Board Member, 400+ Unit Alameda Homeowners Association, and Business Owner

Ed. note: Tom Pavletic’s views are his own.

So there you have it. What do you think?

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