Parcel tax to provide science, foreign language, music classes in district schools
On Oct. 15, the Davis Board of Education addressed a timeline for the development of a ballot measure that would renew two Davis Joint Unified School District (DJUSD) voter-approved parcel taxes.
Parcel taxes are ballot measures that raise a flat rate tax on private and commercial properties independent of their value, and require two-thirds approval from voters.
The parcel taxes that DJUSD hopes to renew will be similar to two parcel taxes that are currently levied on homeowners. Measure C, approved in March 2012, collects $6.4 million annually, while Measure E, approved in November 2014, collects $3.1 million. These taxes are set to expire by June 30, 2017.
Due to state cuts in funding, parcel taxes are necessary for schools to continue offering a variety of services and programs to students. Davis residents have approved parcel taxes in every election cycle since 1984.
Together, Measures C and E provide DJUSD with $9.5 million annually, roughly 13 percent of the budget, to support schools.
Maria Clayton, public information officer for DJUSD, explains that districts receive state funds based partially on the proportion of low-income students in each district. Compared to neighboring districts, Davis has about 70 percent fewer low-income students.
“In Davis, the percentage of these targeted populations is 27 percent and, as a result, [Davis] receives proportionately less funding than districts with greater numbers of students in these target groups,” Clayton said.
Clayton adds that, even with the local parcel tax in place, DJUSD is still an average-funded district for California according to California’s new Local Control Funding Formula.
Without the parcel tax in place, the DJUSD would be underfunded compared to other districts in California.
“[Parcel taxes support] valuable programs and effective services including reduced class size, math and reading support programs, elementary science, secondary foreign language, music, secondary advanced placement classes, secondary physical education programs, libraries, counseling, nursing, athletics and co-curricular programs, staff training, improved student nutrition and more,” Clayton said.
At Robert E. Willett Elementary School, students in fourth through sixth grade attend a separate science class for 40 minutes a day, four times a week.
Kathy Gill, who teaches science at Willett Elementary and holds a degree in biology, notes that when students are introduced to science early on, they are more likely to take science classes in the future.
“The foundations of learning are built in elementary school,” Gill said. “It’s important in our adult lives to understand science, so we start them early on that.”
The new parcel taxes need voter approval by June 30, 2017 in order to have available funds for the following years. The board plans to have a new measure on the ballot during the November 2016 elections rather than hold special elections.
“[Holding separate elections is] costly and yields smaller voter turnout,” DJUSD Superintendent Winfred Roberson said.
According to Clayton, the timeline for the parcel taxes consists of a planning stage in which members discuss the best time to call an election and develop the details for the type of measure that will be voted on.
“The next phase is to develop and approve a resolution that has the details of the measure and that officially calls for the election,” Clayton said.
The information period follows the announcement of the measure. The election date and the process is finalized on the date of the election.
The DJUSD board plans on holding parcel tax workshops in late winter or early spring in order to discuss the parcel tax plan. This is a public board meeting that allows the public to attend in person or view the discussion online or on television.
Update 11/5/15: The DJUSD board plans to have a new measure on the ballot and holding the election during Nov. 2016 is an option, but it has still not been decided.