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School Board Talks Parcel, Utilities Taxes at Meeting

Each initiative has benefits, drawbacks, say trustees.

District administrators at Tuesday’s board meeting discussing future plans to put a tax or bond measure to residents kept in mind both local and national news that have recently shown hostility toward such initiatives.

At the meeting, Superintendent Stephen Hanke presented three options — a general obligation bond, parcel tax and user utility tax — that board trustees say are much-needed measures to raise revenue for the district.  Hanke said there were particulars about each option that trustees should consider when assessing them, including when campaigns could be started, campaign costs and the percentage required for each measure to be passed.

Vice President Greg Tomlinson said last week’s parcel tax defeat for Pleasanton Unified School District is a prime example for trustees to use in forming for their own revenue-raising plans.

Trustee David Haubert said although he saw the importance of such measures, he feared for their success. Haubert said the mood amongst voters against taxes is still prevalent across the nation and it could grow stronger.

“I'm extremely skeptical that we'll be able to pass any of these three in the upcoming elections,” he said. “We could be in the tea party, anti-tax mode in 2012 more than we were in during 2010.”

Elections for a general obligation bond or user utility tax would have to be held in 2012 or 2014.  The bond would require at least a 55-percent vote to be approved while the utility tax would require at least 50 percent of the vote. 

The parcel tax, which can be hosted as a mail-in election at any time, requires at least 66 percent of the vote. President Dan Cunningham said the high threshold required for passage of a parcel tax was one of its biggest drawbacks.

“You only need one-third of the vote against you,” he said.

Because general obligation bonds are meant for facility or project-specific funds, some trustees said a vital part of putting such a measure to vote would be further defining those projects.

Assistant Superintendent Beverly Heironimus said district staff is currently gathering information on projects benefitting from a potential bond measure and could present more details to the board in the coming month.

“The devil's in the details,” trustee Haubert said.  “We’ve seen the importance of telling voters what we're asking for. Doing that well or not really determines if the bond can pass or not.”

Some trustees applauded the financial flexibility allowed by a user utility tax, which would direct money to the district’s general fund for wider usage than a bond measure. The utility tax would be presented to voters as a revenue-sharing measure between the district and the city of Dublin.  Trustees on the prospect and plan to hold more, Hanke said.

Also, Hanke said results of a city-sponsored survey that polls residents on their views on a possible parcel or user utility tax would be available soon.  A portion of the poll also asks voters if they would support multiple tax measures on a ballot.

Trustee Sean Kenny said the results of that survey will do much to reveal voters’ feelings, but he doubted their support for several tax measures at a time.

“Even though I don't think we can have both on there we can't lose the momentum on at least running down these ideas,” he said.

Hanke said campaign costs usually run $2 to $7 per voter, with about 20,000 registered voters in Dublin.

Also at the meeting:

Fallon School, Wells Middle School Recognized for CPR Training

Jamie Hintske, a board member of the Pleasanton Unified School District, presented board members with a certificate recognizing and for their participation in the CPR-7, a county public health initiative that seeks to spread CPR training.

Hintske said the county’s “bystander response” rate, which measures the number of residents offering aid to those they see suffering from cardiac arrest, is 28 percent. She said it is comparatively low to other rates across the nation, including Seattle’s 72-percent rate. Global research has shown that educating school-age children has shown impact on such rates, Hintske said.

Seventh-graders at both schools received informational kits and in-classroom training with CPR mannequins and were told to pass that training onto at least five family members, according to Hintske, adding that the training could yield 75,000 CPR-trained residents by year’s end.

Trustee Kenney said he saw a class during a training session called students’ responses to the training dolls “an amazing thing.” 

“It was amazing to see that those kids got it and when it clicked, to see the chest of the mannequins rise,” he said. “I saw 25 to 30 kids get on fire about it.”

Board Backs Teachers, Classified Employees with Resolutions, Recognition

Several unanimous votes from trustees on resolutions showed their support of teachers and staff to coincide with wider, statewide efforts. One resolution called for the board’s support of Day of the Teacher on May 11.  Hanke said that teachers deal with “diminishing resources and increasing demand at the same time, which is more of a tribute to them that they keep focus on student learning everyday.” 

Another resolution supported Classified School Employees Week, which begins May 15. Hanke called classified employees the district’s “unsung heroes” that “set the stage for student’s success in the classroom.”  Trustees also voted for a resolution supporting California’s Week of Action.

The board also congratulated nine district teachers for completing the Tri-Valley Teacher Induction Program that further credentials them in their positions. 

New Course Materials Approved

The board approved a new set of materials for several courses, such as America in the ’60s and Advanced Placement Psychology. The new course materials will be “Guide to the Vietnam War,” “Guide to America in the 1960's,” “Culinary Arts: On Baking: A Textbook of Baking and Pastry Fundamentals” and the ninth edition of an AP Psychology textbook by Worth Publishers.

Steve May 11, 2011 at 11:32 PM
“District administrators at Tuesday’s board meeting discussing future plans to put a tax or bond measure to residents… At the meeting, Superintendent Stephen Hanke presented three options — a general obligation bond, parcel tax and user utility tax — that board trustees say are much-needed measures to raise revenue for the district. Elections for a general obligation bond or user utility tax..... The parcel tax, which can be hosted as a mail-in election at any time, requires at least 66 percent of the vote. ...Because general obligation bonds are meant for facility or project-specific funds, some trustees said a vital part of putting such a measure to vote would be further defining those projects….Assistant Superintendent Beverly Heironimus said district staff is currently gathering information on projects benefitting from a potential bond measure ....Because general obligation bonds are meant for facility or project-specific funds..." Why is the school board looking for ways to justify a tax? From reading this article it sounds like they’re looking to create projects to justify a tax increase. This seems more than just a little bit backwards. How about the school board invest their time, and the taxpayer dollars they are paying for consultants, on some financial counseling? Didn’t we just approve a parcel tax? When is enough, enough? And why isn't the dublin Unified School District compensation included in the Contra Costa Times salary database?

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