Nov 25 2012

School Tax Oversight Committee: More Questions and Answers

To learn more about taxpayer oversight of the annual $9.5 million School Parcel Tax Subcommittee, the following questions were posed by PCA to School Board President Rick Raushenbush.   The questions and his responses are as follows:
Q.  There is some confusion regarding whether the School Board will have one or two annual public hearings regarding the tax.  As you can see in the excerpts below, the Board’s resolution states two hearings, but the proposed Tax Measure first states one hearing (section c) and then under the Parcel Tax Subcommittee section (e) states “at the first public hearing.”

Can you please clarify how many public hearings there will be and  approximately when they will be held before the Board votes on the tax levy?  The concern is if the Subcommittee is appointed annually in November, how long will the members  have to get up to speed on the school budget before the Board votes on the tax. If the first (or only) public hearing is held in January, for example, how will the Subcommittee have time to prepare?

A. (1) Public hearings.  The Board’s practice on the tax levy is to have two public hearings.  As the Resolution says there will be two public hearings, that practice will be mandatory barring some unlikely emergency that would prevent it.  The Parcel Tax Subcommittee will give its report at the first of the two public hearings so that the Board has time to reflect upon it and to receive any additional public comment that may arise from it at the second hearing.

(2)  The Board’s decision on the amount of the tax levy must be made no later than early April to provide notice to the Alameda County Tax Collector to collect the tax.  Under a normal schedule, that would have one Board meeting in March and then one in early April where the tax levy would be on the agenda for public comment.  If for some reason the decision needed to be made in March (for example, the Board must decide whether to instruct the Superintendent to issue lay off notices, which must be issued in mid-March), then the two hearings would come a bit earlier.  There should be plenty of time for the members of the Parcel Tax Subcommittee to provide their advice.  Moreover, because the members of the Subcommittee will also be members of the BAC, they should be up to speed on the District’s budget, which is updated periodically throughout the year with “interim budgets.”

Q.  Who makes appointments to the BAC (Budget Advisory Committee)?
           Editors’ Note:  There is no process described in the proposed ballot measure for selecting BAC  members.
 Q.  Since the Parcel Tax Subcommittee members must come from the BAC, are the Subcommittee members originally appointed to the BAC by someone other than the President and Vice President of the Board?
A. (3)  The BAC consists of representatives from various groups interested in the schools and interested volunteers from the community.  The groups select their representative to the BAC and interested citizens simply show up at the BAC meetings.  The Superintendent requests that active participants regularly attend so that they have a complete, continuous understanding of the District’s budget.  Anyone who lives or works in the District is welcome to be a member of the BAC.  Any member of the BAC is welcome to apply to be a member of the Parcel Tax Subcommittee.  The Superintendent will ensure that BAC members who wish to serve on the Parcel Tax Subcommittee are tax-paying residents of Piedmont. The members of the Parcel Tax Subcommittee may then determine how often to meet to examine the issues and prepare their report to the Board.
Editors’ Note:  The proposed ballot measure language provides “All residents of the Piedmont Unified School District are eligible to apply for membership on the BAC on an annual basis,” as opposed to all residents may be members.
Q.  Who decides whether to appoint 3, 4 or  5 members to the Parcel Tax Subcommittee?
Q.  Can Parcel Tax Subcommittee members serve for more than one year, and, if so, who makes that decision?
Q.  Will all appointments to the BAC and the Parcel Tax Subcommittee be made simultaneously?
A.  (4) My expectation is that there will be at least one meeting of the BAC before applications for the Parcel Tax Subcommittee are solicited, so that potential members understand the type of information they will need to assess before deciding whether they wish to serve on the Parcel Tax Subcommittee.  The number of Parcel Tax Subcommittee members will depend on the number of applicants, but I expect we will have 5 members if 5 individuals volunteer who are willing to commit their time and talents to the job.  The Board would decide whether individuals could serve more than one consecutive term on the Parcel Tax Subcommittee, but the first step likely would be to solicit applications from all BAC members each year to find out how many individuals are interested in serving on the Parcel Tax Subcommittee.  With other Board committees, the issue has been getting enough volunteers, not having to select among them.
Q.  Will the Board have the authority to change the Parcel Tax Subcommittee process once it is approved by the voters?
A.  (5) It is my expectation that the Board would follow the Resolution with respect to the Parcel Tax Subcommittee process.
Following are Excerpts from the Board Resolution and the Proposed Ballot Measure:

WHEREAS, at this Annual Hearing, the Board of Education will also carefully review the programmatic needs of the District for the following fiscal year, and set the amount of the tax  levy only after engaging in a process of community consultation, which will include two public  hearings, and a review of the report and recommendations by a subcommittee of the long- standing District Budget Advisory Committee. The subcommittee is open to all community members and shall be comprised of tax-paying residents appointed annually by the Board of Education President and Vice-President;




This Measure may be known and referred to as the “School Support Tax”, or as Measure “A”.


(c) Notice of Tax Hearing: Prior to the levying of the special tax in any given year,  the Board of Education will conduct a public hearing on the matter. Notice of the time, date, and place of hearing shall be published pursuant to Government Code section 6061 at least once in a newspaper of general circulation in the District and at least fifteen (15) days prior to the hearing. Following the public hearing each year, the Board of Education shall adopt a resolution establishing the amount of tax to be raised for that year and the rate per parcel, which shall not exceed the amounts enumerated below. Any tax levied shall become a lien upon the properties against which taxes are assessed and collectible as herein provided.

(e) Parcel Tax Subcommittee: An annual written report shall be prepared and  submitted to the Board of Education by the School Support Tax Subcommittee (“Subcommittee”) of the Budget Advisory Committee (“BAC”). All residents of the Piedmont Unified School District are eligible to apply for membership on the BAC on an annual basis. Members of the Subcommittee must be homeowners in the Piedmont Unified School District community and subject to the School Support Tax and not current employees of PUSD. Each year there shall be no fewer than three (3) and no more than five (5) volunteers identified by November of each year to serve on the Subcommittee. It is the responsibility of the District Superintendent or designee to verify eligibility of the volunteers. The President and Vice President of the Board of Education shall approve all nominees to the Subcommittee. The Subcommittee shall work directly with the Chief Business Officer of the District to review School Support Tax uses and report to the Board of Education at the first public hearing held each year to determine the subsequent year’s levy. Members of the Subcommittee commit to regularly attend meetings of the BAC.

Leave a Comment