For much of this year, the school board led by subcommittee Alan Fernandes and Joe DiNunzio examined the DJUSD finances, looked at potential ways to cut costs and increased revenues, and wound up with a single solution to the teacher compensation gap – put a parcel tax before the voters.
Following a brief discussion, that is precisely where the board ended up – putting a $198 parcel tax forward on a 5-0 vote. District administration will now be asked to come back with language that could go to the voters sometime in 2020.
Board member Alan Fernandes, who seconded the motion by Joe DiNunzio, pointed out that this is an issue that was identified several years ago and one that the board has been grappling with 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.”
Tom Adams said, “The big emphasis tonight is local control. We get a certain amount from the state, but that’s pretty much what we’re going to get for a while.”
He said there will be cost-of-living adjustments, “but there isn’t really enough to create the investment that we need to have.”
“Davis needs to realize that Davis needs to take another round of investment to get us to where we need to be,” he said. “The good thing is that Davis solves problems.”
He added, “If we don’t match our investment to our aspirations we’re not going to get very far.”
He said, “Call the question on the issue, let’s move forward on it.”
Board President Bob Poppenga quickly added, “I think it is important to realize the state of funding from the state of California is not going to get us where we want to go. We’ve gone from an 8 percent reserve down to a 3 percent reserve. It can’t go anywhere else.”
The board then passed a motion to have administration bring back language for a $198 a year parcel tax to fund teacher and employee compensation increases.
—David M. Greenwald reporting