After what has been nearly a year of discussion about the parcel tax and an even longer discussion on the concerns about the compensation gap for teachers, the district has come forward with draft language on the parcel tax.
As the staff report notes, “After discussing the compensation gap, its causes, and potential solutions at several Board meetings over the past year, the Trustees provided direction to staff on September 5, 2019 to bring forward a draft Parcel Tax for Employee Compensation Resolution.”
Some of the key points laid out in the resolution are the need for the district to have “high quality public schools” and these “rely on competitively compensated teachers and school employees.”
They further argue that “the District’s ability to maintain competitive compensation for its teachers and school employees ultimately affects the ability to maintain high quality schools thereby impacting the welfare of the District’s students and therefore the residents.”
The district further notes that “homeowners enjoy consistently sustained home values as the median home price in the City is well over $600,000, making it one of the highest home values in the region.”
The board members continually have noted that California itself lags behind the rest of the nation in public school funding. Language on the resolution notes, “California public schools have suffered from consistent underfunding, as of 2018 the state ranks 42nd in per-pupil funding across the nation.”
Within that system, DJUSD is a below average district in terms of state funding and, thus, “the voters of the City are empowered to do something about that by supporting this local funding measure, which will prepare the District’s students for college and career pathways for 21st Century jobs, and ensure that all of the revenue raised will not be taken by the state but will instead be spent in Davis for the benefit of maintaining high quality and safe public schools.”
The draft ballot language reads: “To attract and retain quality teachers and staff by keeping compensation competitive in order to (a) preserve outstanding instruction in math, science, reading/writing, and technology; (b) support arts, and music; (c) limit class sizes; and (d) support student health and safety; shall a Davis Joint Unified School District ongoing 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 District schools only?”
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.
“We started down the road of first recognizing that there is a gap and then understanding what that gap is,” Alan Fernandes stated in September as the board voted to put the parcel tax on the ballot
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