Needing to fill a budget deficit anticipated to grow from the previous year, Redwood City school district officials stand to float a parcel tax measure to the November election ballot.
The Redwood City Elementary School District Board of Trustees can vote during a meeting Wednesday, June 26, to call a fall election for a $149 parcel tax standing to generate about $3.45 million annually over the next 12 years, according to a district report.
The additional revenue is needed by the district to close an expanding budget gap generated by a loss of students to local charters, as well as families departing from Redwood City in favor of more affordable destinations, according to the report.
At the upcoming meeting, officials also stand to approve a budget for the upcoming year which shows spending outpacing income to the tune of more than $6 million, requiring a $2.4 million transfer from estimated redevelopment agency allocations as well as $3.8 million from reserves to balance the books, according to the report.
The shortfall stems mostly from the school system’s reliance on state allocations according to average daily attendance, since the amount of local property tax revenue generated is insufficient for Redwood City schools to be primarily community funded. Redwood City is among 10 of the county’s 23 districts which are not funded primarily through local property tax revenue, according to the report.
Redwood City’s increased obligation to contribute to retirement benefits and health care plans for workers adds an additional financial burden, according to the report which also showed its special education program requires $16 million more to operate than the amount allocated by the state and federal governments.
As a result, district officials need to look to alternative local funding sources such as parcel taxes to backfill the income void, according to the report. For months, officials have laid the groundwork leading up to a decision on floating the tax. A poll released in May found 72% of potential Redwood City voters in the coming election would support a $149 parcel tax — sufficient to pass the supermajority threshold required for approval.
Board President Dennis McBride has said previously he would support floating the measure to the fall ballot. The district has another parcel tax, passed in 2012, which generates about $1.9 million annually.
A shrinking student population is at the heart of the district’s financial woes, as enrollment has declined by 19% over the last several years, plummeting from 9,273 students in the 2011-12 school year to 7,521 students last year, according to the report.
The exodus is driven primarily by the popularity of three charter schools which draw from the district’s student pool, and also the loss of families which are priced out of the area due to the prevailing affordability crisis, according to the report.
And though a residential development boom has taken place locally over recent years, an uptick in enrollment brought by the expected population hike has yet to come to fruition, according to the report.
“While many new housing units have been constructed in downtown Redwood City, their impact on the [Redwood City Elementary School District] in terms of generating new students is not on the immediate horizon,” said the report.
Contrarily, enrollment declines grew so severe last year that trustees were forced to shutter campuses, in an effort to save costs associated with operating a neighborhood school system while preferring to move to a larger, regional model.
Those four sites, as well as the district office, will be leased by the district as part of the fundraising initiative to boost income, according to the report. The upcoming meeting will also feature a discussion about plans for the surplus property.
Operating fewer schools will also allow the district to cut more than $500,000 from its annual budget which previously was allocated to books and supplies, according to the district report.
Despite the dire financial status, the additional revenue gathered by the property leases as well as the tax in combination with the spending cuts could help Redwood City schools reach financial solvency in coming years, according to the report.
“The district board and administrative staff are optimistic that these measures will provide a long-term fiscal solvency and stability that will allow the district to continue to serve every Redwood City child with high-quality education and best learning experience,” according to the report.
The Redwood City Elementary School District Board of Trustees meets 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 26, in the district office, 750 Bradford St.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 105