Thursday, June 19, 2008

Sarvis: Parcel tax is needed


When the November General Election rolls around, there may very well be a parcel tax to benefit elementary and secondary education in the Santa Barbara School Districts on the ballot.
The district’s Board of Education is scheduled to discuss the details at their June 24 meeting. But for District Superintendent Brian Sarvis, it’s really not a question of if there will be a parcel tax, but rather how much it will be and when.
“It seems somewhat likely to me at this point in time,” he said. “Especially given the current climate of uncertainty.”

The parcel tax, which would impact homeowners from Goleta to Montecito, would provide a welcome influx of cash in the midst of deep budget cuts at the state level, much of which has made its way to local pocketbooks. The Board of Education just finished cutting $4 million from the upcoming school year’s budget and school officials are expected to cut millions more next year.
The amount of a tax could range from $19 to $44 per parcel and would be used to enhance math and science education, reinstate classroom music programs at elementary schools, restore music arts and theater programs at junior high schools and attract and retain teachers.
One possible hitch is that home owners in the City of Santa Barbara, and some of the unincorporated areas surrounding it, could be assessed two separate taxes, one for elementary schools and another for high schools. Communities impacted by the high school tax include Santa Barbara, Montecito and Goleta, all of which feed into the district’s three high schools. However, Montecito and Goleta have their own elementary school districts.
According to a poll commissioned by the school districts, the results of which was presented during a June 10 School Board meeting, 73 percent of those polled said they would support a $44 parcel tax for the high schools, while 76 percent said they’d support a tax for the elementary district. The duration of the tax presented to those polled was seven years.
In the high school district, voters said they would favor using the funds to enhance math and science programs and restore junior high school music and theater programs. At the elementary level, voters were most in favor of using the funds to attract and retain quality teachers followed by enhancing math and science education, the poll showed.
A parcel tax would require a two-thirds majority in order to pass. According to Board of Education agenda letter, the cost of placing the tax on this November’s ballot is between $60,000 and $80,000.
Despite the $4 million in recent cuts, Sarvis said the district officials managed to retain all of its music programs, but some ninth grade class sizes were enlarged in order to cut costs.
With the fiscal dilemma at the state level expected to get worse before it gets better, Sarvis said money from a parcel tax will not only help ensure programs don’t fall by the wayside, but when they are threatened in the future, money will exist to sustain them.
“One thing a parcel tax would do is to provide secure funding so we’d know these programs were in place and would continue,” he said.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

City College just raised my property taxes by $50 per year. Maybe Sarivs should ask them for the money.