Feb 22 2014

OPINION: School Support Tax Levels for 2014 – 15

In springtime, a School Board’s fancy turns to thoughts of next year’s budget…

Here in Piedmont, a significant piece of that budget is funded by our local “School Support Tax.” The current version of that tax is the Measure A parcel tax approved last spring by 76% of Piedmont voters.  In response to court decisions, this tax was converted from its traditional graduated structure to a flat tax that has been $2,406 per parcel in 2013-14.  Measure A authorizes the School Board to increase the tax by up to 2% per year (lower than the 5% annual cap in earlier parcel taxes).  It also provides for an independent citizen oversight and advisory group — presently an independent Support Tax Subcommittee of the District’s Budget Advisory Committee, which replaced an earlier Citizens’ Advisory Committee.  I serve on the current Subcommittee, and served on the earlier Committee as well.

At last week’s School Board meeting, I presented this year’s Support Tax Subcommittee report (approved unanimously by our members, who also included Peter Freeman and Amal Smith).  We recommended that the District:

(1)   levy Measure A taxes at their maximum level in 2014-2015, including the maximum permissible increase of 2%;

(2)   deposit the $188,160 increase in a parcel tax reserve account, and spent as necessary during the life of Measure A (through 2020-2021).

If accepted, these changes would increase total Measure A revenues from this year’s$9,408,025 to $9,596,185.  For each individual property owner, that would mean an increase of $48, from $2,406 to $2,454.

Our Subcommittee report notes that state revenue support for local schools is improving (for the first time in years), but still below levels before the Great Recession.  We also note that the current discussion in Sacramento calls for funding increases — but that state revenues themselves are subject to big swings:  Prop 30 tax surcharges expire in 4 and 7 years, before the end of local Measure A’s 8 year term; and state personal income taxes are at a high point this year, because of IPOs by Facebook and other companies.  It seemed to us that the District can’t afford to take Sacramento’s hints of growing support at face value, and needs to continue to work its way out of deficit spending, and to rebuild its reserves.  Our full report is available online atwww.piedmont.k12.ca.us/aboutpusd/agenda.minutes/2-12-14-packet.pdf (in pages 10-14 of the Board meeting agenda packet), and my presentation is on KCOM.

The School Board will consider our report over the next several months while it prepares its parcel tax levy decision and budget for 2014-15.  I hope PCA’s readers will consider these questions, and develop and submit their own views.  While you’re doing so, you should also consider City parcel taxes, and property taxes associated local bond measures (including the pending vote on bonds to modernize the Alan Harvey Theater at Piedmont High School).

Jon Elliott, Member School Support Tax Subcommittee

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

One Response to “OPINION: School Support Tax Levels for 2014 – 15”

  1. Piedmont’s School Support Tax is well over double to literally 100 times higher than other school support taxes in the state. Further, many of these other districts, and all the other top rated districts with a tax, have an age only qualification senior exemption. Piedmont has no such senior exemption.

    While I value Mr. Elliot’s contribution to the School District, the 2% increase instead of 5% is no gift as the District has always taken every increase possible. And the high fixed rate parcel tax is on top of an existing heavy bond payment load for residents.

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