Dec 4 2010

Piedmont Board of Education to Vote on Revisions to the Parcel Tax Citizens’ Advisory Committee’s Charge

Update: The Board of Education voted to limit the Citizens’ Advisory Committee’s charge on December 8th.  See Recap of Meeting

On December 8th the Board of Education will vote on whether to revise the Citizens’ Advisory Committee’s current Charge.  Board Member Ray Gadbois, together with former member of the CAC Eileen Ruby, have argued for limits on the Committee’s ability to make recommendations to the Board and its fact-finding research. Details in previous article: A Call to Limit Citizens’ Advisory Committee Input. The open portion of this meeting will start at 7:00 in the City Council Chambers.  The CAC discussion is item VI(A) in the Agenda and Packet.

Specifically, the Board will vote on whether to eliminate references to CAC evaluation of PUSD “programs” and emphasize “high level analysis of the District’s budget”.  Also, on whether future requests for CAC fact-finding research will require a formal vote of the Board.

The practical effect of these revisions is unclear, given the Committee’s statutory authority under Measures B and E to make recommendations to the Board on whether and to what extent to levy parcel taxes, together with its duty to provide those recommendations on an informed basis.  In prior public discussions, the Chairman of the Committee has noted that fulfilling this mandate requires fact-finding research on cost saving alternatives which may reduce PUSD budget expenditures and, in turn, allow reduced parcel tax levies.  This mandate is separate and distinct from any requests for research which may be received from the Board.  (Charge revisions, p. 17-25.)

Potential dangers posed by these new restrictions, such as making decisions without sufficient fact-finding, thwarting the intent in creating a Citizens’ Advisory Committee, reducing district accountability for spending parcel tax monies, and attempts to improperly influence policy by voting down requests for research and analysis, were not addressed in the Board’s packet of materials (p. 17-25).

The Citizens’ Advisory Committee  (CAC) will be meeting on December 10th from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. in the PUSD district office at 760 Magnolia Avenue, Piedmont, to review and discuss the Board of Education’s Charge to the Committee.  CAC Agenda 12-10-10 The meeting will not be videotaped, nor televised.

Background on Measure B and E Parcel Taxes: Since 2000, the PUSD budget has increased 15% per year on an annualized basis.  These increases have been funded by parcel tax increases and donations.

Currently, two school parcel taxes are assessed on 4016 parcels in Piedmont. Approximately 1800 of the parcels provide residences for families with children according to the 2000 census.  (Some of these families may be enrolling in schools other than Piedmont.) The two parcel taxes currently generate approximately $9 million per year in funding and provide over 35% of the School District’s annual operating budget.

Together, the two taxes range from $2,021 to $3,678 per residential parcel, with Measure B averaging $2,100 and Measure E averaging $249 according to PUSD campaign literature.  (These parcel tax amounts do not include Piedmont school bonds, which amount to $100 per $100,000 of assessed value through 2046.  School bonds average an additional $650 per home and are used to fund school construction projects.)

Measure B allows, but does not require, a 5% increase each year.  Measure E is a flat rate, temporary, 3 year emergency tax which will expire after fiscal year 2011-2012.  Details

The Committee’s Current Charge: Measures B and E directed the Board of Education to establish a Citizens’ Advisory Committee and receive its recommendations “as to the levy amount up to the maximum allowable for the subsequent year’s tax.” When the Board initially established the committee and laid out its duties in the Committee’s charge, it included:

  • identifying the impact of recommended and alternative levels of funding on school programs, and
  • responding to requests from the Board for “additional evaluations or recommendations on specific budgetary or programmatic questions”.

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