Another school district--this one in Palo Alto--will ask voters to replace its current $493-a-year parcel tax that is set to expire in 2011 with a $589 levy to help pay down an expected $5.1-million budget shortfall.
Members of the Palo Alto Board of Education made it clear Tuesday night that renewal of the district's parcel tax is critical if the district is to continue offering high-quality programs to its 11,565 students.
The current $493-a-year-per-parcel levy generates $9.4 million a year, about 6 percent of the district's operating budget. It expires in 2011.
Superintendent Kevin Skelly has recommended seeking replacement of the current tax with a $589-a-year-per-parcel levy in an election in April. The new tax would have a six-year life span and carry an optional exemption for seniors as well as a 2 percent per year growth adjustment to keep up with enrollment growth and cost increases.
On Dec. 15, the board will hold a public hearing on Skelly's proposal and vote on whether to hold an election in April. Once that vote is taken, campaigning on the measure is taken over by privately funded campaign committees.
Regardless of the fate of the parcel tax, the school district faces a multi-million dollar "structural deficit" for the 2010-2011 school year because of state budget cuts.
Board members stressed that parcel tax funds are locally generated and locally controlled.
The school district is collecting suggestions on how to address the 2010-2011 budget shortfall, now estimated at $5.1 million. The board will hold a study session on the issue early next year.
Skelly said the district already has achieved some savings through an informal hiring freeze, tighter staffing at the secondary level, cutting food budgets, closing school swimming pools between sports seasons and "incrementally" increasing K-6 class sizes.
Even so, "We're probably going to have to make some choices that are really tough, that we don't want to have to make," board member Melissa Baten Caswell said.
The Palo Alto district serves 11,565 students. A propoposed $233-a-year parcel tax in Pleasanton failed to generate the necessary two-thirds vote to pass last June in a district that serves 14,846 students.