After a year of struggling for a way to pay for everything without cutting programs, the Davis Joint Unified School District is turning to residents.
Measure W on the Davis ballot is a parcel tax that would require homeowners to pay $120 per year and apartment owners to pay $50 per unit per year. The tax would last for three years, and the district’s board of trustees could vote to eliminate the tax if they felt it was unnecessary.
People who live in apartments will not receive a bill for the parcel tax. The bill will be sent to the apartment owner, who may choose to pass the cost on to renters.
Two-thirds of Davis voters must approve Measure W in order for it to pass. The measure would not fund any new programs – it would only maintain current funding levels. If the measure does not pass, board members say they will have no option but to cut $2.4 million in funding for classroom instructors and educational programs.
Some critics of the school district have said the district needs to cut more administrative positions before levying another parcel tax, but supporters of Measure W say the district has cut everything it can. Most recently, $1.1 million in administrative positions at the district office were eliminated from the budget.
“We can’t cut any more,” said DJUSD trustee Sheila Allen. “You can’t do that much belt-tightening without touching [programs that affect students].“
The main reason for the district’s funding problems is a lack of support from the state, Allen said. The state is supposed to provide a cost of living adjustment to the district every year, but consistently provides far less. For example, the funding increase from the state this year was 0.6 percent, when the actual cost of living went up 5.5 percent.
“If we had that 5.5 percent, we wouldn’t need this parcel tax,” she said.
The district was able to avoid making any major cuts last year due to an unprecedented fundraising drive by the Davis Schools Foundation, which raised $1.7 million from community members and businesses to help secure funding for teachers, librarians and science education programs.
The district has a structural funding problem, however, and the community will not be able to do fundraising every year to cover the gap, said DJUSD trustee Gina Daleiden.
A counterargument to Measure W was given by Davis resident Tom Coleman Randall at a local debate last Thursday.
“Currently on our tax bill there are seven voter-approved taxes that property owners pay,” he said. “It’s not that cheap investment that they say it is.“
Outside of Randall’s argument, there is no organized opposition to Measure W. The Yolo County Taxpayers‘ Association, which frequently opposes parcel tax measures, endorsed the measure.
It’s in the community’s best interest to support Measure W because the high quality of Davis schools are an important part of the city’s character and what attracts new residents, said former North Davis Elementary School principal Judy Davis.
“Ten dollars a month – that’s the best homeowners‘ insurance you can have,” she said.
JEREMY OGUL can be reached at email@example.com.