Friday, June 27, 2008

Board approves two parcel taxes

BY COLBY FRAZIER
DAILY SOUND STAFF WRITER

After several hours fine-tuning, the Santa Barbara School Districts Board of Education yesterday unanimously approved two parcel taxes that will appear on the November General Election ballot.
If approved by voters, the 23,995 parcels in the elementary school district, which consists primarily of homes in the City of Santa Barbara, will be assessed a $27 per year tax for the next four years. A slightly lower tax, $23, will be levied against the 52,020 parcels in the high school district, which stretches from Goleta to Montecito.


Those with residences in the boundaries of each district will be charged both amounts.
The board approved the taxes in concept at a meeting last week, but waited for yesterday to hammer out the details.
The board combed over two separate resolutions, the informational language that will be distributed in voter pamphlets and the actual 75-word ballot question.
School officials say the need for homegrown, predictable cash in a time of unprecedented cuts to education at the state level, has arrived. And a parcel tax will do the trick.
As a result of these cuts, and steady declines in enrollment over the years, arts programs have been cut and class sizes have increased.
In order to balance the books for the upcoming school year, the board was forced to make $4 million in cuts.
In the high school district, the roughly $1.2 million the parcel tax could generate will be used to bolster math, science and technology education, supplement music, arts and theater programs at the junior high schools and reduce class sizes in ninth grade math classes.
In order to ensure the money is spent on what the board says it would be, a citizens oversight committee will be formed and independent financial audits would be conducted.
According to the ballot language agreed upon by the board, none of the money will be used to pay the salaries of administrators.
In order to partially restore some programs that have been cut in the past, a number of new full-time positions will need to be filled. In the high school district, four full-time employees, at an estimated cost of $285,500 per year, could be hired to teach junior high music and theater arts classes. An additional four positions would be created to expand upon foreign language electives.
In the elementary district, about $468,000 of the $523,000 that could come into the district each year would be spent on six full-time music teachers. About $15,000 would be spent on musical instruments and maintenance and another $40,000 would be spent on enhancing math, science and technology equipment.
The district’s three charter schools, which are made up of students who live within the district’s boundaries as well as outside, could also receive funding from the parcel tax.
Board member Kate Parker said about 800 Santa Barbara School Districts children attend the elementary-age charter schools. The board agreed parcel tax funding should be allocated to charter schools, but only if it’s based on the percentage of students living in the district.
The settled upon tax amounts are significantly lower than the $44 parcel tax a polling firm found a pool of 800 Santa Barbara voters would overwhelmingly approve.
Board member Nancy Harter said this time around, the board should start small and earn the trust of the voters.
“I think we should start modest,” she said.
The campaign for the measure, which hasn’t been named yet, will most likely be run by the Santa Barbara Education Foundation, which pledged its support for the taxes last week.
In order to be approved, the taxes will require a two-thirds majority.
More information about the taxes is available at www.sbsdk12.org.

2 comments:

Cookie Jill said...

Do you realize how many things are already on the November ballot? Holy Mole....the ballot might end up being 6 pages!

Anonymous said...

"...the ballot might end up being 6 pages!"

Mostly new taxes. If we're smart, we will vote at least most of them down. If City and County governments and their various agencies want to balance budgets, instead of taking more they should spend less. Anybody who believes these parcel taxes will really end after four years needs to wake up.