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Permanent parcel tax pending?

Submitted by on 1, March 16, 2009 – 7:30 am7 Comments

img_0518_320x240At 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.

7 Comments »

  • David Forbes says:

    "McMahon said the district was on sound financial footing when it asked for the money…"

    Actually, the Board voted to put Measure H on the ballot at the same meeting as we voted on cuts to athletics, music etc.

    "If the money is needed, then why didn’t the district ask for a permanent tax the last time out?"

    Given the exceedingly slim margin by which Measure H passed, I would submit that the amounts (in terms of both time and money) were the maximum that would have passed with the 2/3 necessary.

  • Andy Currid says:

    Oakland did pass a permanent school parcel tax in early 2008. Their more recent attempt in Nov 2008 to pass an additional permanent parcel tax failed due to strong opposition from teachers unions, partly because of provisions to pass money from the tax directly to Oakland's charter schools. See http://www.ibabuzz.com/education/2008/11/05/the-t

  • John says:

    I wish that a discussion about consolidation would be part of the budget process. The facilities need to be maximized. In some cases they are but in others they are not.

    My dream is one high school on the Rittler, Wood, Paden site. One high school make a lot sense for many reasons, but most of all reduction of administration,and over-head cost. This could be funded by the sale of the Encinal Alameda High and Thompson Field sites. And from what I can tell from the districts numbers we need just two middle schools.

    The elementary schools are the toughest because they have small lots in many cases.

    What I would really like is an honest discussion about how we can not operate schools like we did 50 years ago.

  • dave says:

    How do you propose to fund such projects, John?

  • Jill says:

    John,

    I don't know about the non-Lincoln middle schools; I'll defer to those who are more familiar with those schools. But as the parent of a Lincoln student, I can tell you that Lincoln is already overcrowded and it should not be required to accommodate any more students. It is already a very large middle school.

    Having a single mega-high school that is located on the west end doesn't make sense geographically. The commute for Bay Farm kids would be even more unreasonable than their current commute.

  • Jayne Smythe says:

    Mega-schools provide many problems, not the least of which is you will have to add bussing. Doesn't that ratchet up the price tag? Bet your bippy. Added Police presence will also be necessary in such a setting. When you create a giganitic artificial population, you have to expect more in the way of bullying, ganging, and other problems.

    Mega-schools is, actually, how it used to be… I don't know where John grew up or when, but I recall schools with 40+ kids in a single classroom. I recall being in those classes. I did not find it enjoyable, and I felt as if I received less productive time with teachers.

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