Nov 13 2012

OPINION: League of Women Voters Concerned About Permanent School Tax

Letter to School Board Members:

Comments on Proposed School Parcel Tax Measure

Dear President Raushenbush and members of the Board of Education:

The League of Women Voters of Piedmont appreciates this opportunity to provide comments as you develop the school parcel tax proposal this month. On November 7, Katy Korotzer briefed our Board members on various options you are considering. Her presentation and insights were very helpful. To the League, the most significant issue seems to be the term of the tax: whether it should again be four years, “permanent,” or perhaps something in-between.

When the League decides whether to take a position on a ballot measure, the Board looks to the League’s formally-adopted policy positions and weighs all that apply. Education has been a high priority for our League at least since 1948, when it decided to “[s]upport a high level of education within the Piedmont Unified School District.” Based on this position, the League has
endorsed every school bond and tax measure within memory. However, the League also has a strong statewide position in favor of including sunset
provisions in all dedicated tax measures (LWVCalifornia Position on State and Local Finances, paragraph 4h).

During the just-past election, the Leagues of Alameda County declined to endorse the county-wide transportation tax measure precisely because it would have implemented a permanent tax. The League adopted a “neutral” stance.

When the LWVP Board evaluates the school tax ballot measure, it will have to weigh both of these positions in deciding whether to support, oppose or remain neutral.

We understand the Board of Education’s desire to avoid the uncertainty and expense of seeking ballot approval of the parcel tax every four years. We urge you to consider the alternative of perhaps an eight-year tax.

Our members suggested several reasons why this might be a reasonable term, and better than a permanent tax. First, conditions change: State funding, the composition of the Board of Education, the district administration, and the very nature of education might well change significantly over the next couple of decades.

Second, having a school parcel tax on the ballot makes the whole community focus attention on the schools and their current issues, which seems to be a good thing.

Finally, if “only” eight years have passed since the last school tax ballot, there should still be “community memory” about how to rally the public to get the tax passed. A longer term would make this more problematic.

Thank you for this opportunity to give our perspective. We will be following
developments closely. We appreciate all you are doing for the schools and our community.

Very truly yours,

Julie E. McDonald
President, LWVPiedmont

cc Constance Hubbard, Superintendent
Katy Korotzer

Editors’ Note:  The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Piedmont Civic Association.  

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