Until voters decide the fate of Measure G, a $233 per year parcel tax that would bring in just over $4.5 million to fund specific education programs, the hot topic is not likely to cool off before the June 2 special election.
The Save Pleasanton Schools campaign is in full force, walking precincts last weekend and holding a town hall meeting this past Wednesday in support of Measure G. The group's website boasts collecting $37,200 toward an $80,000 goal as well has having hundreds of names on its endorsements list, which includes several public officials and all five school board members.
The opposition, however, hasn't started a formal campaign, which has made it difficult to gauge how much support they have. Instead, they have used email and online posts on the Pleasanton Weekly's Town Square forum to offer what they call an "informational campaign."
Eight members of the public, including former school board member and City Councilman Steve Brozosky and former City Councilwoman Kay Ayala, have signed ballot arguments against Measure G with the Alameda County Registrar of Voters. The web home of the group can be found at www.pleasantonparceltaxinfo.com, which the group hopes to have up and running sometime next week.
Measure G has proved to be a sensitive issue that some claim is dividing the community. Those contacting the Weekly to voice their opposition don't want their names used for fear they would be viewed as opposing teachers, kids and the schools. One such person who feared retribution if he/she were named said it would be better to put campaign contributions toward the schools.
"We think it is irresponsible that the campaign for the parcel tax is planning on raising $80,000 for their campaign when there is no organized opposition," the person said.
Dorene Paradiso, who signed a ballot argument against Measure G, agrees.
"I think, especially in these economic times, it is a lot of money wasted on the campaign," she said. "Donate money towards the schools."
Doug Miller, another who signed the ballot argument, said it's the "wrong tax at the wrong time," adding that the school board and district were irresponsible and hardly looked for ways to cut the budget.
"[Board member Valerie Arkin proposed some [cost-saving ideas, and I don't think the school board gave much thought to those proposals," he said.
Paradiso said her anti-tax stance doesn't take away her support of Pleasanton schools.
"I'm very sensitive to our children and our teachers," she said. "One of my daughters is a teacher and I have two grandchildren in Pleasanton schools."
Miller, who moved to Pleasanton for the schools and whose children have graduated from Foothill High School, said, "I'm against the parcel tax, but I am certainly for good, solid schools."
He also added that the core group of "intensely involved" people in their group is about a dozen, plus another 20 who contribute on a regular basis. That number, he said, is expected to increase as people become more aware.
Paradiso believes the district is scaring people to garner a yes vote.
"The fear they're putting into people, I don't believe that it's necessary," she said. "They are scaring the children into scaring the parents. It's really wrong. I don't believe another tax is going to solve the school district's problems."
Recently, an anonymous document titled "The Real Facts Regarding the Pleasanton School District (PUSD) and the Parcel Tax" has circulated (page 1, page2). It alleges that PUSD has threatened to cut teachers and programs "to create a crisis and force a perceived need for a parcel tax."
In response, on March 24, Superintendent John Casey sent out a memo on PUSD letterhead through the district's "e-connect" responding to the document (page 1, page 2, page 3). He addressed eight statements made in the anonymous document, which the district claimed to be "inaccurate in its presentation of facts." The superintendent's memo was also made available at a recent Leadership Pleasanton Alumni luncheon, where Casey answered questions regarding Measure G.
The memo caused a stir among Measure G opponents, who accused Casey and the district of campaigning. They claimed it was a violation of the California Education Code 7054, which restricts a school district from using services, supplies or equipment urging the support or defeat of any ballot measure or candidate.
Paul Thompson, attorney for the school district, spoke at a special budget workshop last Tuesday in an effort to clarify the issue. He claimed the district has the right to issue factual information regarding Measure G, saying the memo didn't include campaign language.
Casey said the district has an obligation to inform the public of factual and neutral information about the parcel tax the district has proposed. While he acknowledges the potential of gray areas in doing this, he said a group of district employees as well as Thompson review information prior to it being sent.
"We're going to try to stay out of that gray area," he said. "Some people may think [we are in it and we can make adjustments accordingly."