Two weeks ago, the DJUSD School Board approved in concept the placement of a $198 parcel tax on the ballot that would close the teacher compensation gap. They asked for district staff to come back with specific language.
Among the goals of the measure would be to “attract and retain high performing teachers and educational staff,” “maintain high teaching standards to continue excellent education in local public schools,” “provide quality educators to support strong academic programs in reading, writing, math, arts and sciences,” and “ensure students have the teaching support needed to prepare them for college and 21st-century careers.”
The specific proposed language: “To attract and retain quality teachers and staff by keeping compensation competitive, in order to preserve outstanding instruction in math, science, reading, writing, and technology; support athletics, arts and music; limit class sizes; and support student health and safety; shall a permanent Davis Joint Unified School District parcel tax of $198 per year, adjusted annually for inflation, be adopted, raising approximately $3 million/year, with senior, disability, employee exemptions and citizens oversight; for the exclusive use of District schools?”
The district will continue the current exemptions – anyone over 65, anyone on SSI or disability, and district employees.
The tax unlike previous taxes does not have a termination date, which means it would remain on the books unless repealed or replaced.
Alan Fernandes who, along with Joe DiNunzio, has been a driving force behind the push for an employee compensation parcel tax, said at the last meeting that the board has been grappling with this issue for some time.
“We started down the road of first recognizing that there is a gap and then understanding what that gap is,” he said.
He noted that they have come to this conclusion, after recognizing the historical reasons for the gap and the ability of the board to solve that gap.
“What we as a community know, maybe better than most communities, is the ways in which we can increase our revenue – and the manner with which we can control our costs are somewhat limited,” Mr. Fernandes stated.
He said that the school really lacks a lot of authority and discretion.
“The reality is most of what we do is either required by law and the funding that we get is predominantly from the state,” he said.
“We looked at what our options are,” he said. “The parcel tax is the most direct and honest way to approach the topic.
“Where we are today is, in my view, at a decision point whether we continue down this path of asking the voters, explaining to the voters, and ultimately asking them to value teachers the way we value teachers here at the district,” he said. He said the best way is to “proceed with the parcel tax for teacher compensation.”
Joe DiNunzio, who made the motion and served with Alan Fernandes on the subcommittee, said: “It has to be clear to the community that it’s the right thing to do, it’s the fiscally responsible thing to do, and it’s the clearest path to achieve our goals.”
He called this “an issue of fairness, a moral imperative to make sure that we are compensating our employees and treating them as well as we possibly can.”
He said there is a “practical element here” which is “compensation is a big part of why someone would join an organization and a school district.”
For Mr. DiNunzio, there was not a lot of appetite in this community for cutting programs.
“The analysis showed that we are already running an efficient operation,” he continued. “The options above bringing more revenue in is going to require cutting staff – and that means cutting programs. And we saw in all of these meetings, no appetite for that.”
He said that “this gap is a parcel tax.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting