No March election for school district
After roughly 90 minutes of discussion, debate and consternation, the Lake Tahoe Unified School District board unanimously decided to abandon a March 8 parcel-tax election.
The wait is intended to give additional time to formally survey and educate the public on the district’s needs.
Interim Superintendent Lorraine Garcy will research available dates for a special election in 2005 and bring the results to the board during a meeting Nov. 9.
The March election was initially targeted since it is a week before the deadline that pink slips would be delivered if staff reductions are needed.
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Badly needing a parcel tax to pass and facing another deficit of $1.5 million next school year, the board was stuck in a precarious position during its meeting Wednesday night. It was the fifth meeting examining a second parcel tax in less than two months.
The core of the issue was finding an annual tax amount parcel owners would be charged that would meet the district’s needs yet have the least opposition.
Financial projections state $3 million in extra revenue is needed to save and bring back staff and programs. For that amount to be gathered, the district proposed a $120 annual parcel tax, which was double the $60 annual parcel tax that was structured in the defeated Measure L last April.
It doubled in size to be more equitable to all parcels and stand up in court.
Outside of parents, the $120 amount received lukewarm reception.
Parents who attended Wednesday’s meeting made it clear that if the district approved a parcel tax short of bringing back programs like class-size reduction and ensuring the existence of athletics, the district could face opposition from them.
“You have to ask the question ‘when the parents will say no,'” said meeting attendee Peter Grant.
However, the $120 mark was too easy to criticize by being double the amount of Measure L and likely difficult to pass by two-third of voters. Measure L fell 12 percentage points short of passing.
Terry Price, who consulted the Measure L campaign for the district, attended Wednesday’s meeting. He advised a survey should be taken.
“It’s unbiased, it’s across the board and you’re able to talk to people who are not in this room,” he said.
Board member Barbara Bannar feared a survey would pigeonhole the district into settling for an amount that could pass but fall short of needs.
“I would feel we need to stick with that because that’s telling us something and risk turning off parents.” she said.
Garcy was concerned one option that would tax individual units, thus making a triplex pay triple than a single-family home, would be open to litigation.
Another option that was pushed by a handful of community members was a tax charging the same amount per square footage of building space. The option was unfavorable and tough to achieve since measurements for 1,200 building were missing from the El Dorado County Assessor’s Office.
But if that option was approved by the board, Garcy said it would face immediate resistance from the American Resort Development Association, which represents major clients like Marriott. ARDA pumped $75,000 into a campaign that fought Measure L.
Howard Glassroth, the association’s vice president of communications, could not confirm that opposition.
“When we get a complete proposal, we the industry, would be happy to take a look at it,” he said. “Our position is we’re not going to speculate on multiple choices that are out there.”
This week, nine of 17 parcel taxes passed in the state. Santa Clara County alone had seven parcel taxes on its ballot.
Next month the first interim financial report will be presented to the board. At that time, board members will get an understanding of three-year financial projections by Chief Financial Officer Michael Curran, hired in the summer.
– E-mail William Ferchland at firstname.lastname@example.org
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