Permanent parcel tax pending?
At last week’s school board meeting, Alameda Unified’s chief financial officer, Tim Rahill, laid out his recommended solutions for filling the multi-million-dollar budget gaps the district is facing over the next few years.
Even with the current reductions in state funding and declining enrollment, Rahill’s charts showed balanced budgets for the current school year and each of the next three years. But after that, Rahill said, the district falls off an $11 million cliff – in large part because Alameda’s two temporary parcel taxes, which will rake in a combined $7.3 million a year, will end.
So how will the district deal with this impending fiscal apocalypse? Rahill’s slides offered a possible solution, one that otherwise passed unspoken during the course of his presentation: A permanent parcel tax to start in 2012.
“Will the community support the schools in 2012/13 with a replacement permanent parcel tax to cover these lost funds?” the slide asked.
I checked in with school board President Mike McMahon, and he said the board will consider asking for a permanent parcel tax as part of its master plan development process. He said the board will discuss the timeline, activities and scope of the process at its March 24 meeting.
If the money is needed, then why didn’t the district ask for a permanent tax the last time out? McMahon said the district was on sound financial footing when it asked for the money, but the state budget has since turned out to be far worse than the board anticipated (though if memory serves, part of the reason was that the district’s consultant told them they thought a temporary tax was more likely to pass).
Dozens of districts across the Bay Area have temporary parcel taxes to support schools. The City of Oakland failed in its recent attempt to pass a permanent tax (though apparently an earlier permanent tax passed); Orinda just passed one a few weeks ago, Eve Pearlman recently reported.
Alameda’s latest parcel tax is the subject of two lawsuits seeking to invalidate it, though the judge set to handle both cases questioned their central legal argument in a temporary ruling in one of the cases.
In the meantime, board members and Superintendent Kirsten Vital said at Tuesday’s meeting that they’re glad to have the current parcel tax, which appears likely to play an increasingly prominent role in balance the district’s budget over the next few years.
“Thanks God for Measure H,” board Vice President Ron Mooney said.