Just seven hours before the legal deadline, the voted Friday morning to put a parcel tax renewal and increase on the June ballot.
The district board opted for a resolution that would put a $149 parcel tax increase, if passed, into effect immediately on July 1. The district currently has a $309 per parcel tax in place that expires in 2014. A more complicated option the board considered would have allowed the current tax to stay in effect until its expiration date with the $149 increase – if passed – taking effect in July 2014.
But, the district needs money now, not in two years, said board members.
“The need is now,” said Trustee Annelise Bauer.
The district is facing an increasingly uncertain budget future, with state funds shrinking.
If don’t pass in November, the district will lose $800,000, said RVSD Business Manager Jim Cerreta previously. Because the vote on those measures will come in the school year, the district would have to dip into its reserves.
A prospect, Trustee Anne Capron called, “an ongoing unsustainable problem.”
The board cited concerns that those state tax measures won’t pass, in addition to a best case scenario that has the district at 80 percent of its 2007-08 state funding, as a reason to pass the parcel tax now, so as not to be up a creek later.
And, if the state tax measures do pass, then, said Trustee Heidi Weller, then the district may be “inch back” to where it used to be.
In the past few years, the district has had extensive cuts because of decreases in state and federal funding. Since 2008, $2.7 million has been cut from the district budget, and . The cuts reduced the amount of instructional aid time, reduced librarian time, implemented some layoffs, made the HR position and Brookside Principal both part-time (which was temporarily restored for this year), and cut five percent district-wide in supplies.
The current parcel tax, renewed at $254.49 in 2005 with a 4 percent annual increase, raises $2.3 million per year for the district. It was first passed in 1993 and renewed again in 1997 and 2005. It is currently set at $309.66 annually per parcel and will expire in June 2014.
, which was aimed at addressing overcrowding and facility issues. . A $29 million modernization bond was also approved in 1999, of which $17 million is still outstanding.
The bonds, though, go to specific facility issues, while the parcel tax aims at funding class-size reduction, preventing teacher lay-offs, and maintaining arts and usic.
“If [the parcel tax] is not renewed,” said Cerreta previously, “we have another $2.3 million to cut” – out of an $18 million annual budget.
The district, though, is opting not just to renew the tax for eight years, but to ask voters for an increase of $149, bringing the annual tax to $458, with a yearly 4 percent automatic increase.
It’s a risky move, acknowledged Bauer.
“It’s a little bit risky, but it’s something we were willing to tolerate given our needs now,” she said at the meeting.
The district conducted a phone survey of community members to gauge the support a tax renewal and increase would have, what programs would be a priority to fund, and what amount the community would support.
The $149 increase, Bauer said, was a push on the high end of what the community was willing to support. “Our consultant would have been more comfortable with $99,” she said.
If the parcel tax increase, which requires a two-thirds vote to pass, fails, then the current parcel tax would stay in place and expire in 2014.
At that point, particularly if the state measures fail in November, the district may decide to go back to the voters.
“It’s about what our community really values,” said Weller.
Will you support the parcel tax increase?