The parcel tax subcommittee of Alan Fernandes and Joe DiNunzio has been meeting regularly since January to discuss ways to close the employee compensation gap, most likely through the placement of a new parcel tax for employee compensation on a future 2020 ballot.
Tonight there will be a board check-in on the item. As discussed at the March 14 meeting, there will be additional subcommittee meetings this month, during the evening hours to hopefully generate more community participation, with the hope that they would take more formal action in May.
“Our board goal,” Alan Fernandes stated at the March meeting, “is closing the compensation gap. We want to put us in a place where we’re competitive with other school districts.
“I don’t want this to just be a check-in,” he said, speaking of the April meeting. “ I want us to drive at how we – maybe through the parcel tax – finally decide on our strategy for closing the compensation gap.
“There are other opportunities and outlets that we’ll continue to discuss,” he said.
At this evening’s meeting, the board will consider a professional services contract for potential polling and strategy consulting for a Parcel Tax for Employee Compensation.
In a letter to the district, EMC Research suggests a hybrid email to web/telephone survey which would reach 400 to 600 likely voters, with an average length of about 15 minutes. Such a survey would run somewhere between $27,000 and $45,000 depending on the number of interviews and whether they utilize additional strategy from a consultant.
The board subcommittee has been working on messaging to present to the community. One of the key questions likely to arise is why is the district disadvantaged financially, and if the district is an average funded district, why do we have a compensation gap?
“I don’t like any longer like to say we’re an average funded district,” Alan Fernandes explained at a February meeting. “Because we’re not.”
At DJUSD, even with the parcel tax, the per pupil spending was at $11,582 or about 95 percent of state average. While that seems reasonable, without the parcel tax that amount drops to $10,333 (84.5 percent).
The key take-away point, however, is that while the parcel tax appears to take DJUSD from 84.5 percent of the state average to 95 percent of state average, it is somewhat of an illusion. The parcel tax is not just general fund money. It has already been allocated to fund specific programs that other districts have decided not to fund.
Comparing Davis to other local districts, most – whether they are Woodland, Washington (West Sac), Vacaville, Dixon or Natomas – are getting far more in LCFF (Local Control Funding Formula) funds.
LCFF is broken down into three categories: base funding, supplemental funding, and concentration grants. All districts get the same base funding. “The LCFF Base Grant provides funding based on a school district’s average daily attendance (ADA) and number of students in each grade span,” a presentation explains.
Districts receive greater funding for students who are low income, English learners, homeless and foster youth. DJUSD is “disadvantaged” here because it qualifies for less in the latter two categories.
While Davis is disadvantaged by LCFF, Mr. DiNunzio agreed that’s how it is supposed the be. “The formula is supposed to be equity based,” he said. “It is fair that those districts are getting more – it takes more resources to address their populations.”
He stated, “I want to put to rest this notion that we should be getting more from the state.”
One point, though, that he does agree with – every district should get more from the state. California is now near the bottom in the nation in K-12 education funding.
In 2016, DJUSD voters passed Measure H. That parcel tax generates roughly $9.6 million per year and funds about one out of every five teachers.
The parcel tax, however, is not a general fund tax. It can only fund the programs it was specifically designated to fund.
As the staff presentation points out, the parcel tax funds the 7th school period. It also funds programs like music and arts, and other programs that would not exist in the same form or even at all without the parcel tax.
Associate Superintendent Matt Best in February pointed out, “The parcel tax funds programs that generally districts like us don’t have.”
But there is a tradeoff here – while the parcel tax funds some programs that would not otherwise exist, it cannot fund other things.
Bruce Colby explained, “The parcel tax money is very targeted, it mostly pays for teachers. Our community has decided that’s the priority.”
But what it can’t do is fund a teacher compensation gap.
Joe DiNunzio explained, “We as a district have made the decision that this approach is right for us – and this is the fallout of that.”
In sum, DJUSD receives below average funding from the state and federal sources. The parcel tax funding funds specific programs and we have made the decision to fund things that other district do not. Even with the parcel tax, we are about 5 percent below the spending of other districts – that right there is at least part of the teacher compensation gap.
A key question for the voters will be whether the district should change its priorities. The district does have the option of changing what the parcel tax funds.
Joe DiNunzio has repeatedly argued that most people in this district support those priorities, such as smaller class sizes, and would not be willing to make that trade off.
Alan Fernandes continued to argue that we need to think of this district as not having average funding, “because we’re not funded at the state average.”
Now the question is what will the board decide to do – if anything at this time – and then it will be up to the voters to ultimately decide whether the district receives more tax money from local sources or is forced to shift its priorities.
—David M. Greenwald reporting