Renewing a parcel tax to maintain existing local school funding is the goal of measure R, an item on the Nov. 5 ballot for the Belmont-Redwood Shores Elementary School District.
Last week, the Daily Journal interviewed the Yes on R campaign, including the campaign’s co-chair Rahila Passi and board President Robert Tashjian in an in-office interview. There was no formal ballot argument opposing the measure.
The measure renews two school district parcel taxes into one totaling $174 per parcel a year. Currently, Belmont-Redwood Shores has two parcel taxes. Measure G, a $96 a year parcel tax for 10 years, passed in 2004. It generates about $1.2 million annually. In 2008, voters passed Measure U, a seven-year $78 annual tax that brings in about $950,000 per year.
The funds would go to reading, writing, math and science programs, supporting school libraries, attracting and retaining teachers and maintaining a well-rounded curriculum, including music and art and supporting technology upgrades. This would be a 10-year parcel tax starting July 1, 2015.
“It preserves the status quo and is absolutely necessary to keep the lights on in the district,” Tashjian said.
The extras beyond teacher salary will have to be cut if measure R doesn’t pass, Passi said. This is the minimum level of funding moving forward and that the district could go with a much larger ask if some families weren’t still struggling coming out of the recession, Tashjian said.
The pending Common Core curriculum, which shifts to team collaborative learning, with less time spent on lectures and more of an emphasis on students using technology in classrooms will also require these technology upgrades, the two noted.
The district is expecting to see a lot more students in the next five to six years, Tashjian said, noting that this fall there are 3,800, more than the typical number. This will help the district address enrollment growth, he said.
“We are using facilities in the most economically feasible way possible,” Tashjian said. “We changed the school assignment system, built Redwood Shores Elementary School and added capacity at Ralston [Middle School]. Having relatively affordable homes in the district has added students.”
The new Local Control Funding Formula will send $2.1 billion more to school districts that have high numbers of students from lower-income families, who have limited English proficiency or are foster children. During the first year, the formula gives school districts more control over state aid by eliminating earmarks for state-mandated programs, except for special education funding. There is still uncertainty in the district about how its budget will be affected.
“Education funding in California is a mess,” he said. “This is also a signal from the community that they support the schools.”
The importance of schools for the entire community, not just those who are parents in the district, is something Passi stressed.
“Home owners are affected by the quality of the schools since they bring up or down home values,” Passi said.
Such a measure requires support from two-thirds of the voters to pass. Earlier this year, the board approved a study of public opinions about continuing the measure.
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