If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try… try again. After three failed attempts in 1993, 2005 and 2009, the Wednesday night approved placing another parcel tax measure on the June ballot.
The Redwood City School District in the surrounding area to not have the additional source of local income. The $67 from the "Elementary Education Improvement and Student Achievement Measure" for the next five years would provide an additional $1.7 million annually that would stay within the district.
“If we don’t educate the children today, we’re going to pay tomorrow,” said Maria Diaz-Slocum “They deserve it.”
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District parent Michelle Hausler and co-chair of the Community for Better Schools, or the parcel tax campaign, highlighted the necessity of securing a local funding source.
“We can’t rely on the state or legislators to provide the education our students deserve,” Hausler said. “We would have the local control we need to improve our schools.”
The measure requires a 67 percent approval. Senior citizen homeowners and persons with disabilities, regardless of age, who are receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI), could receive an exemption.
“I have no children or grandkids in the district, but I’ll pay whatever it takes,” said resident Janet Borgens. “It takes less than a latte a week!”
The prospect igher property values as a result of school improvement was also a plus of the parcel tax, said resident Sandra Cooperman.
The tax would be used to financially support enhancement of reading, writing, math and science skills; attract and retain qualified teachers; and support school libraries. The tax money would not be used to pay administrators’ salaries.
Local organizations such as the Redwood City Education Foundation, a non-profit that supports the district, and the Redwood City Teachers Association (RCTA) preemptively supported the parcel tax.
Bret Baird, the president of the teachers’ associations, said he lives in Palo Alto and pays a $500 parcel tax.
“I float between two worlds,” Baird said. “And I’m reminded of the inequities every single day.”
Trustee Dennis McBride added more context to the disparity. Over these students’ K-8 careers, each student in neighboring districts will have approximately $90,000 more spent on them before they meet up in high school.
“It’s staggering that we have to apologize for asking for taxes,” he said.
However, one resident was vehemently against putting a “tax burden” on the community.
“The district has ignored alternatives for other cost cutting methods,” said Jack Hickey. He noted the larger class sizes for fund reduction, but suggested eliminating more associative and administrative staff.
A Hit to Redwood City Students
Per student funding has dropped from $5,534 per student in 2007-08 to $4972 per student in 2011-12. Comparatively, more than $11,000 is allocated to each student in the Woodside Elementary School District.
The district has cut about $13 million over the last five years, including laying off more than 120 teachers and other staff, increasing the number of students in many classrooms by up to 50 percent, and reducing the number of hours that school libraries are open during the school day, according to the district report.
The district was awarded about $4.4 million in local donations and grants for the 2011-12 school year, including about $400,000 raised directly for the district by the Redwood City Education Foundation.
“It hurts me that the community college district and the high school district have passed so many bonds, yet we can’t pass one for our most vulnerable and precious in our community,” said Mayor Alicia Aguirre.
Will This One Be Different?
To date, the campaign has signed up 450 volunteers versus a couple hundred from the 2009 campaign, according to the parcel tax campaign co-chair Julie Guaspari. There has already been $75,000 raised compared to $0 this same time in 2009.
Resident Lou Covey also cautioned the committee to remember the large percentage of the community that is tax adverse.
“Don’t assume that everything’s fine,” said Covey, who supports the parcel tax measure. “Assume we’re going to lose.”
Board President Hilary Paulson added that researchers had even recommended a $75 parcel tax, but the board decided to vote on $67 tax to make the measure more palatable.
“I’m very optimistic, but I’m also a realist,” Paulson said.
“When you lose, it’s hard to get going again,” said Diaz-Slocum. “But I feel that this time is going to be different.”
Correction: The original article stated that the parcel tax money would not go to teachers' salaries, when in actuality the tax money will not be going to administrators' salaries.
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