Yesterday in my analysis on the need for compromise on GATE and my argument that a subcommittee might have been the way to go, I wrote, “From my perspective, that (a divided vote on AIM) is not in the best interest of the district. The voters will be asked to support an extension of the parcel tax at some point. There are a lot of key issues that need to be addressed, but there will be a looming elephant in the room that is as polarizing as any issue the school district has seen.”
I was not stating that people should or even will oppose the parcel tax because of AIM. I was simply stating that controversy at the time of a parcel tax vote might be self-defeating. Just as I believe that the city council would like polarizing issues off the ballot when a tax measure comes forth, so too might it be in the interest of the school board.
I was not suggesting that people should tie their vote to the outcome of AIM, just that they might. And they might not – as one reader pointed out, there were many other dustups, from Valley Oak to the firing of popular coaches, that did not impact voting on the parcel tax.
So I will state my position clearly: I believe that AIM is a contentious issue and think it is in the best interest of the school district, from a public policy standpoint, to find a consensus policy that can gain five votes of the board.
As the father of three kids in the school district at various levels and receiving various levels of service, I unequivocally support the renewal of a parcel tax next year. My daughter a week ago began Kindergarten in the dual-immersion class at Montgomery. My nephew, who just turned four, has been attending Head Start at Montgomery and is now in a special pre-school class at Valley Oak.
I am very grateful to the school district for being able to maintain high levels of programs in the face of budget difficulties, and to the community for stepping up to ensure a high level of education for all.
That said, I would like to push the school district a bit. I have similar concerns with regard to the parcel tax as I do with regard to the city’s sales tax. The city of Davis sold the sales tax, on the idea it was an “emergency” and “temporary.” The idea was to be that, once the city’s finances improved, the sales tax would sunset. Instead, there is talk, already, and with five years to go, about an extension.
Back in the fall of 2012, the school board did what it thought it would not do – put yet another parcel tax on the ballot. However, the district faced the reality that, in the best case scenario, where the governor’s taxes passed in November 2012, it would be $3 million in the hole.
The board acted as it felt it needed to.
“Sheila [Allen] and I spent awhile saying that was an emergency parcel tax,” Board Member Gina Daleiden said at the time. “That was absolutely what I believed at the time. Things have only gotten worse. It’s almost unpredictably worse. If we’re going to say, look, game has changed, we have new information and our first job is to protect the school district as best we can, then I’m willing to talk about continuing what you are already paying to bridge us through some additional time.”
Susan Lovenburg, who was running for re-election at the time, explained, “We have known for some time that Measure A was going to sunset. It was our preference not to renew that tax. We’ve gone to the community four times in the last five years and every time they’ve responded affirmatively.”
“It was the realization as we were working through the adopted budget for next year, that, despite the fact that we made $3.5 million in reductions, despite the fact that we’ve passed a parcel tax in March, we still have a budget that does not hold together for two years,” she continued.
Okay, the community got it in 2012, they supported it overwhelmingly in November 2012.
And we get this – while times are better and DJUSD is no longer in an emergency, it is not flush with money either. Davis got the short end of the stick on local control funding.
I would argue that there is another piece to this that we need to think about. We have gone three years without another new parcel tax. We are not contemplating a raise at this point. However, four years is coming up quickly – just a year away.
I would like to see if the school district can start to shift away from the need for parcel taxes to fund ongoing formulas during times when the state is not taking money away. Are there ways to save money? Are there programs that are less vital than others?
I understand in an emergency the need to develop revenue or lay off staff, but we will have had four years to re-think our priorities, to look into possible ways to save money.
I will support whatever parcel tax is on the ballot, and I will do so actively. However, I think we owe it to generous taxpayers and the cash-strapped city to look into ways to reduce the amount in the parcel tax – even if it is by a little.
—David M. Greenwald reporting