$150 annual parcel tax set to expire this year
After five failed attempts to pass a parcel tax, Cabrillo Unified School District finally succeeded in 2010 and again in 2014. That tax expires next year, and now district officials are deciding whether to ask voters to renew the tax.
At the district board meeting on Thursday, officials discussed the implications of increasing the parcel tax to $197 from $150 and the results of a polling survey.
With a projected $2.5 million budget gap for next year, the district will have to make significant cuts with or without the tax, said school board President Sophia Layne. But the parcel tax would help reduce that gap. If it is passed at the current rate, nearly two-thirds of the gap would vanish. If it is increased, the tax would cover an extra $500,000 of the deficit.
“(It’s) $500,000 less in cuts we would need to make,” Layne said in an interview. “But it’s not like we’d be swimming in money.”
The board assembled a financial advisory committee this spring and is waiting to hear the committee’s suggestions on how to address the budget gap.
The polling survey, conducted by EMC Research Inc., found that a supermajority of respondents would support a parcel tax renewal at the current rate, but it also showed support for a tax increase falls just short of the two-thirds necessary to pass the measure.
“Passing a parcel tax measure in any district is really difficult,” said Sarah LaBatt, principal and chief people officer with EMC Research, in her presentation.
“If you decide to move forward with the measure ... you want to have parents enthusiastic,” she added.
The district says the $1.6 million collected each year helps fund academic programs, teachers and staff, career and college counseling, and classroom technology. Officials say it is not used for administrator salaries, pension or benefits, nor is it used for construction projects, which are funded through bonds.
“I’m really glad to see that there’s strong support, and the continued strong support in our community for our schools, and the recognition that our reliance on the state can only go so far,” Layne said in an interview.
The majority of voters don’t have students in Cabrillo schools, EMC’s presenters reminded the council, but the primary reasons for opposing the tax were feelings that the funds are mismanaged and “taxes are too high.” Supporters cited beliefs that “schools are underfunded” and “education should be a priority.”
Layne credits the increased support shown by the survey to heightened awareness regarding school funding.
“It’s that combination of that local advocacy and the broader state and nationwide awareness that has resulted as a result of teacher strikes in Oakland and L.A,” Layne said. “Those are pretty high-visibility events that may have contributed to a better awareness of the issues and communities like ours that are struggling to keep up with the increased costs.”
Not everyone has to pay the parcel tax, however. There are currently three exemptions for senior citizens and those who receive disability insurance. There is also a contiguous parcel exemption, which allows property owners with multiple, connected parcels to have the adjacent parcels exempted.
If the board decides to put the tax on the ballot in November, it has to file notice by Aug. 9. The next meeting is scheduled the day before that deadline, but the board is considering moving the meeting to an earlier date to vote on the issue.