With a parcel tax floating to voters on the coming election ballot, Redwood City Elementary School District officials worked toward building consensus over ways the revenue may be spent.
The district Board of Trustees gathered Wednesday, Sept. 4, to discuss strategies for allocating the money potentially generated by voters passing Measure H, the $149 parcel tax expected to generate about $3.4 million annually over 12 years.
Calculating equitable revenue splits between the district’s comprehensive sites and charter schools, identifying appropriate raises for teachers and determining the amount of additional staff and programs possible with the potential revenue were priority issues at the meeting, said board President Dennis McBride.
Though no decision was made at the meeting, McBride said a majority of the board is leaning toward directing 90% of the revenue to the district’s 13 comprehensive elementary and middle schools, with the final 10% going to its three charters — KIPP, Rocketship and Connect.
District officials identified the method as their preferred alternative because it makes budgeting more simple, as there is little annual variation between the amount received, said McBride.
Such an alignment was unpopular with members of the district’s charter organizations, who would have preferred allocations be based on the percentage of overall student enrollment, said McBride.
District officials will continue working through the calculations and McBride said he expects trustees may be asked to make a decision on the allocation strategy later this month.
The difference for charters is about $50,000 annually, depending on the revenue split option ultimately selected by officials, according to a district report. Should charters get 10% of the income, the three schools would receive a collective $333,000. If they get a share based on enrollment, which is about 12% of the student body, they would get $387,000, according to the report. The comprehensive sites would split between $2.99 million and $2.94 million, according to the report.
The district and charter organizations have a long and tumultuous financial history, as officials point to a shrinking student body due to popularity of the alternative schools as a primary source of ongoing fiscal hardship.
The issues grew so severe that the district Board of Trustees elected last year to close four schools with hopes of overhauling the broken financial system. Measure H was floated to voters shortly afterwards, to further improve the district’s financial footing. The tax must receive supermajority support from voters in the November election to pass.
In further plotting the potential spending targets with tax revenue, officials are planning to offer teachers a 1% raise, which would cost an expected $404,000 beginning in the 2020-2021 school year, according to the report.
With remaining revenue, officials are hopeful to hire additional kindergarten and first-grade teachers to reduce class size ratios to 25 students per teacher. A district report suggests about additional six teachers, expected to cost about $672,100, would allow the district to meet its goal class size.
But McBride suggested a couple more teachers may be necessary, so that cost could fluctuate. The district currently has a kindergarten and first-grade class size ratio of 28 students to one teacher.
With the remaining approximately $1.8 million, officials plan to supplement reading and writing intervention programs and beef up the district’s science, math, engineering and technology instruction.
McBride though said spending the leftover sum will largely be determined according to feedback from principals, as each site has a distinct set of programmatic needs.
Beyond helping identify appropriate spending thresholds, McBride said the most recent conversation will ultimately be fruitful in helping officials discuss the tax with community members and rally support during the campaign.
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