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Island Talkback: Alice Lai-Bitker urges Yes vote on Measure A

Submitted by on 1, February 11, 2011 – 12:04 amNo Comment

By Alice Lai-Bitker

Ever since my husband and I moved to Alameda more than 20 years ago, we’ve been reminded daily of the special quality of life we have here. We love Alameda, our two daughters graduated from Alameda public schools, and we feel privileged to call it home.

Over time, it can become easy to forget the special things we have in Alameda.  That includes the community’s support for our schools. Alameda has a long history of supporting its young people, through its public services as well as through the many youth-oriented activities sponsored by community organizations. Supporting our kids is part of what Alameda is all about.

In order to preserve both quality schools and a vibrant community life for Alameda, I am encouraging a “Yes” vote on Measure A, which would replace our existing parcel taxes, Measures A and H, to ensure that a basic level of quality is sustained in Alameda’s schools.

Our school district is looking at a three-year budget gap of more than $19 million due to state budget cuts and the expiration of our current parcel taxes. Measure A aims to fill about $12 million of that gap. The funds would be spent on preserving small class sizes, keeping neighborhood schools open, providing Advanced Placement and arts programs, preserving high school sports, and preventing further cuts in teacher pay so Alameda can remain attractive to the most qualified and enthusiastic teachers.

I participated in discussions about the structure of the tax when the Board of Education sought input from the public and the business community. Measure A treats both homeowners and businesses fairly, and it has a progressive structure that implements the tax based on 32 cents per square foot of any home or business, with a cap of $7,999. Currently we pay $309 in parcel taxes. If Measure A passes, my family will pay close to $700. (Again, it is based on square footage of my house). While precinct walking, I spoke with many neighbors who expressed great concern with paying additional taxes, but who also felt it was a worthwhile investment in our community.

It’s also worth noting that because many seniors are on fixed incomes, Measure A will retain an existing provision that exempts them. However, I know personally that many seniors in our community do not take the exemption, because they believe it’s important to support our schools. Measure A also would establish a citizen’s oversight committee to ensure that the additional tax funds are being spent appropriately.

I believe our school district is a good investment, and a recent study confirmed that. The Center for American Progress rated Alameda as a highly productive school district – a measure of a district’s academic achievement relative to its spending.

I’ve been so impressed with the way our community has come together to support stretching our dollars a bit to keep good schools. Good schools are important not just to our kids but to everyone – they contribute to a safe community, a good business climate, home values, and a family-friendly environment that keeps Alameda an attractive place to live.

Please join me in voting yes on Measure A on March 8.

Alice Lai-Bitker of Alameda just completed 10 years of service as a member of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors.

Got an issue? Send your Island Talkback submissions to michele@theislandofalameda.com.

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