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High School District May Pursue Parcel Tax

In light of state budget struggles, Sequoia board and administration may look to local voters for funding gap relief.

Due to bleak financial projections from the state government, the Sequoia Union High School District may soon begin laying the groundwork to ask local voters to support a parcel tax.

According to a discussion that took place Wednesday night at the district board of trustees meeting in Redwood City, revenue from a parcel tax may be necessary to backfill a funding gap left by the state legislature.

Assistant Superintendent Enrique Navas said that early reports from financial offices in Sacramento indicate that the state may fall $3.7 billion short of its projected revenue target going into the 2012-2013 fiscal year.

Should these projections not improve in the near future, midyear budget cuts will go into effect beginning January 1, 2012.

Under provisions built into Governor Jerry Brown's budget, the anticipated revenue gap would result in $1.16 billion worth of "trigger cuts" to K-12 public school district funding and $248 million in those same type of reductions to student transportation funding.

If the cuts go into effect, the transportation funding would be snipped immediately and the K-12 money would be reduced at the beginning of the next fiscal year.

And according to Navas, such cuts appear to be inevitable.

"Pretty much everyone believes the trigger is going to be pulled," he said.

According to a report presented by Navas on Wednesday night, under these conditions the local high school district stands to lose $200 per student in average daily attendance money from the state.

As a result, the district is examining the feasibility of trimming $2 million from its budget going into the upcoming fiscal year, and cutting the same amount at the beginning following fiscal year as well.

Such cuts would come after the district trimmed nearly $5 million from its budget last year, which resulted in 33 district employees receiving pink slips.

At the beginning of the current fiscal year, the district had $14.8 million in its general fund, with a $4.4 million stowed away in a separate reserve fund.

During Wednesday night's meeting, Superintendent Jim Lianides introduced the possibility that Gov. Brown has discussed floating a funding measure during the upcoming elections that would raise $7 billion in money earmarked for state schools and public safety.

But under questioning by trustee Chris Thomsen, the district administration admitted they were still unsure how much, if any, of that money the local high school district may stake claim to.

As a result, Thomsen suggested the possibility that the district may have to take matters into its own hands.

"If we cannot get a piece of the governor's proposal, we may have to pursue our own means, such as a parcel tax," said Thomsen.

He also acknowledged that there was "enormous lead time" involved in a district's effort to get a parcel tax passed. So if the board and administration agreed they were interested in pursuing such a measure, the work would need to begin relatively soon.

"If the financial picture doesn't change... we have greater incentive to look at parcel tax," said Thomsen.

Trustee Alan Sarver echoed many of those same sentiments, and indicated that it may be in the best interest of the district to put itself in a position that would not be so dependent on receiving revenue from the state government.

Tom Ricks December 09, 2011 at 02:26 PM
One thing I am not clear on...-maybe because I can actually remember what I was told by our politicians --Several years ago -we voters were told that if we voted to allow Indian Casinos in Calif., the tax money from those enterprises would fund our schools...Question: Where did all that tax revenue go???? The casino's are still open and doing a great business...Could it be that our elected leaders are playing the old 'shell-game"////
Lou Covey, The Local Motive December 09, 2011 at 03:55 PM
Tom, here's the basic problem: When the economy is good, people have money to burn. So lots of them go to casinos to gamble. Gambling revenues translates into funding for schools. The more people gamble, the more money for schools. When the economy is bad, people have less money to burn. They may still go to casinos to gamble, but they don't gamble as much. The less they gamble, the less money there is for schools. Even Las Vegas is feeling the pinch in this climate as revenues are down 10.4 percent and dropping. This is what happens when we tie our revenue model to boom time economy, turn all funding over to a central government (Sacramento) and restrict what the state can do to increase revenue or determine how to fund services. What we can be happy about is our school district has done exactly as we asked them to and cut their budgets every year while still providing educations to our children. We have the lowest funded school district on the peninsula and the state wants to take more money away. It's time we took a temporary measure into our own hands and step up to the plate.

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