Editorial | July 4, 2008 | Pleasanton Weekly | PleasantonWeekly.com |


Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - July 4, 2008


Park district opts for taxes; school district opts out

Superintendent John Casey wisely took consideration of a possible parcel tax off the school board's table last week, saying that this year's budget shortfall for Pleasanton will not be as bad as feared and that economic concerns make this a poor time to ask voters for more money. We agree, which is also why we're perplexed by a $500-million bond measure that the East Bay Regional Park board agreed to float in November. With rising gasoline prices, turbulence in the housing market, uncertainty in the general economy and job market and a feisty presidential campaign now under way that is focused on all of these issues, it seems an odd time to seek voter approval more parkland. Perhaps the park district board, which voted 7-0 for in favor of placing the bond measure on the ballot in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, eyed the results of bond and parcel tax measures that went before voters last June 3 and thought it was worth a roll of the dice to try for a win on Nov. 4, when record voter turnouts are projected. After all, Bay Area school districts fared reasonably well in the 16 school measures, including 10 parcel taxes, all of which required two-thirds support just as the park bond measure and Pleasanton school parcel tax would need. But that was nearly two months ago. Gas prices, economic worries and housing problems have gotten worse, much worse since then. Casey believes it's too dicey to expect voter approval this year; the park board believes it has a good chance of winning because voters will recognize that with better parks, they won't have to drive to distant locations. But with the bond measure's two most expensive projects aimed at finishing the East Shore State Park in the Richmond area and creating a new regional park at the old Concord Naval Weapons Station, the Regional Park District's appeal to the Tri-Valley will be a stretch at best.

By putting any consideration of a parcel tax aside for this year, Casey has a more realistic approach to voter appeal. It's just not the right time, he told the board, although the proposal could come back next year if there are new and more onerous cuts in the state education budget. As it is, the governor's May budget revise leaves most funding intact, although Pleasanton will see some restraints, but nothing major. Casey no doubt looked at the same June 3 results that buoyed the bond measure advocates in the park district and saw things differently. In Alameda, for example, a see-saw battle had that city's school district watching its proposed levy of an emergency tax of $120 per residential parcel pressing back and forth election night just short and then just over the two-thirds majority vote it needed for passage. Finally on June 29, after all provisional, absentee and ballot box votes had been counted, the tax levy was approved by the barest of margins. Nearby San Ramon was not so lucky, with voters rejecting Measure D that would have extended and increased the current parcel tax to support school programs and services. In 2004, voters approved a $90-per-parcel tax which expires June 30, 2009. A similar proposal had been defeated two years earlier.

Voters approved school bond and tax measures June 3 in Hayward, Antioch and Palo Alto, as well as a whopping 70 percent "yes" vote in San Francisco for a parcel tax that will go mostly to boost teacher salaries. But voter concerns over the economy were also factors in the defeat of parcel taxes in Pacifica, the Gravenstein Union School District in Sonoma County and three local districts, also in Sonoma County.

As for rolling the dice based on these June results and continued economic concerns, it looks to us as if Casey made the right call to hold off for another--and better--time while the park district will face a challenge to convince enough voters that more parks are worth the price.


Posted by Taxpayer, a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Jul 5, 2008 at 9:41 am

How much money was wasted on a parcel tax consultant?

Perhaps the fact that the district has lost the publics confidence, through the botched contract with Signature Properties and a nonresident Trustee, contributes to their realization that their approval rating is similar to George Dub's.

Think about it...richest state in the richest nation in the world, 50% of the budget goes to education, 51% of the education budget goes to administration, and we are the 3rd lowest state in quality of education (and that's BEFORE any budget cuts)... what's wrong with THAT picture? I don't think blaming Schwartzenegger and dumping in more money quite works.

But stay tuned you can be sure, they will be back to try again.......

Posted by Julie, a resident of Foothill High School
on Jul 6, 2008 at 9:21 am

The sky is falling, the sky is falling!!!!!!!

If you were watching the start of this process, while the superintendent and most of the school board were panicking the public with threats of emotional cuts that defied all logic (reading specialists? coaches stipends?), the only voice of reason was Steve Brozosky counseling to wait to see what the real cuts would be. He repeatedly pointed out the states pattern of tough talk that results in minimal education cuts in the final budget. He was also the only board member that said it was an opportunity to trim some fat that was a prudent thing to do anyway. He suggested places to look that did not directly touch the students or parents.
If you were watching at the end you would have seen one board member giving Brozosky credit for being right and seeing what no one else did.

Even non-Brozasky fans should admire that kind of rational thinking and leadership.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jul 6, 2008 at 12:45 pm

*shrug* His background is business. That's what they do in business.