Despite the community’s best efforts to help, the Davis Joint Unified School District is still looking for money to avoid losing teachers and programs.
The district’s board of trustees voted Wednesday to put a parcel tax measure on the November ballot. If approved, the ballot measure would allow the school district to levy a tax of $120 per home and $50 per apartment unit annually for up to three years.
The decision to put another parcel tax on the ballot comes less than a year after a similar parcel tax measure was passed by voters in November 2007. That measure created a $200 per year tax for homeowners and $100 per year for apartment units.
It also comes on the heels of a fundraising effort this spring by the Davis Schools Foundation, which raised over $1.7 million to retain science teachers, music teachers and librarians.
A parcel tax can only be enacted with the approval of at least 66 percent of those voting on Election Day. Last November’s measure garnered 73 percent of the vote, but surveys conducted by the district have shown that support for another parcel tax will not be as widespread.
In addition to potential fatigue from the fundraising efforts of the last year, advocates of the parcel tax will have to contend with a bloated ballot this November. California voters will see 11 statewide propositions on the ballot, in addition to the presidential election, congressional elections and state legislature elections.
DJUSD trustee Gina Daleiden said the fatigue will be much greater if the measure is not passed.
“Without this measure’s structural solution to our structural funding issues, relying solely on unsustainable year-to-year fundraising efforts for critical programs, we would see much greater fatigue,” Daleiden said in an e-mail interview.
If the new parcel tax is passed, it will include accountability measures such as a citizen oversight committee. Daleiden said the tax will not necessarily be levied for all three years.
“The board reviews the district financial situation each year to determine if the tax is necessary to fund the very specific programs in the measure,” she said.
Daleiden said she expects the community to recognize the value of a measure that funds education. The parcel tax will provide funding for roughly 15 full-time science teachers, music teachers and librarians at the elementary level. It will also provide funding for roughly 11 full-time teachers at the secondary level.
“If this measure doesn’t pass, we face certain and deep cuts to the core program we offer our students, and that in turn will result in losing teachers and instruction for our students,” she said. “Both the kids and our community will lose.”
The parcel tax is opposed by some apartment managers in Davis, who say the tax is weighted too heavily on renters. An unsigned flyer distributed to residents at the Almondwood Apartments and Fountain Circle Townhomes outlined an argument against the parcel tax.
“The school board will have to hope the uninformed UCD students will vote for a tax that is unfairly weighted on them, especially at a time when UCD students are facing an 11 to 13 [percent] increase in enrollment fees,” the flyer said, according to excerpts posted on The People’s Vanguard of Davis online.
Almondwood and Fountain Circle are both managed by Davisville Management Company. Chief operating officer Janna Buccieri said she did not know who distributed the flyers, but agreed that the parcel tax was a bad idea for renters.
“The homeowners who do have the children should have a much bigger burden,” she said. “The [students] at our complexes don’t have any benefit from it. We’re trying to keep costs down for our residents.”
Buccieri said her company has absorbed every parcel tax increase so far without increasing rent, but that at some point the increased taxes would have to be passed on to students.
“I’m a homeowner and as a homeowner I’m absolutely for it, but I don’t think it’s fair as an employer,” she said.
The Yolo County Taxpayers Association has not yet taken a position on the parcel tax, but its members have demanded that the district explain how the amount of the tax was determined and how that is related to the district’s needs.
“I think if voters become aware of the reasons [the board] has to ask for this, they’ll be less sympathetic,” said association president John Munn.
Munn, a former DJUSD trustee, said part of the reason the district has to raise this money is because the board approved salary increases for teachers last year for which they did not have the money.
“I think that the board has been less intelligent in trying to balance their budget over the past few years and they have a hole to dig out of it,” he said.
The board, however, says that the primary reason for the parcel tax is under-funding on the state’s part. The resolution that was passed Wednesday cited “ongoing and inadequate state funding.”
The election will take place Nov. 4.
JEREMY OGUL can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.