Parcel tax up to incoming board |

Parcel tax up to incoming board

William Ferchland, Tribune staff writer

In its last meeting together after four years as a board, five Lake Tahoe Unified School District board members agreed to table an emotional vote on a $60 parcel tax.

The agreement was to let the new board decide.

The vote on the six-year parcel tax will now take place Tuesday night, when three new members elected in November will join Wendy David and Madeline Fernald, who were not up for re-election.

A March election includes the Democratic presidential nominee and a host of other decisions that would likely bring more voters. It would also cut the cost of the election for the district, which would likely have to bear the full cost of about $20,000 to put the issue on the April 13 ballot.

Secondly, the March election falls before the March 15 date when the district will send out letters of dismissal to staff due to an expected $1.5 million deficit for next year. Pink slips and “reduction in force” hearings will now take place before the April election.

The November 2004 election is also a possibility, though unattractive since the district would like to see the roughly $3 million revenue from a parcel tax for the 2004-05 school year.

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Board members David, Fernald, Bernadette Santana, Lennie Schwartz and Sue Yang had experienced the highs and lows of the district’s enrollment. During the past five years, $5.5 million had to be slashed from the budget.

Thursday night’s meeting, their final together, would have given them a chance to help fix the woes with a vote to approve a parcel tax and put it on the March election.

“I certainly don’t believe I’m a lame duck in the decision that I’ll make tonight,” Santana said Thursday night.

Schwartz said “based on our belief system” the board should make a vote but “obviously there are differences in beliefs in this board and the new board.”

Sue Novasel is one of the new members. She was among several in the audience who pleaded with the board to give their vote to the new board.

“I do have some reservations,” she said. “I have heard rumblings in the community. We don’t have support out there and I want to get it,” said Novasel, who supports a parcel tax.

Novasel, who spoke to Doug Forte, also a new board member, said Forte wants the board to pass the vote.

A survey conducted a day before Thursday’s meeting stated 39 percent of 400 people would support a $60 parcel tax. It’s nearly half of the required 66 percent required to pass it.

Those surveyed said they would be in favor of a parcel tax if money would be dedicated to keeping school libraries open. Other favorable issues included reinstating a full music program for grades five through 12, retaining quality teachers and staff, and keeping school nurses and counselors.

Avoiding a school closure and keeping class-size reduction were “among the less influential statements,” the survey stated.

The idea of a parcel tax to save the financially struggling district has been tossed around for months, but it has only received immediate attention in the past weeks.

The tax has kept and improved many programs in districts like Tahoe-Truckee and Davis. Between January 2002 and March 2003, only 50 percent of 20 California school districts were successful in passing a parcel tax.

“If you don’t want to support education, then I know a lot of people who will go off the hill,” said teacher Jodi Dayberry in her address to the business community, which is rumored to be against the resolution. “So as the business community you need to ask yourself – do you want more business or have the business go off the hill?”

In the end, the decision by the board was not to vote on the parcel tax issue.

Yang, Schwartz and Santana, the three outgoing members, remembered when they had become board members four years ago. Back then they didn’t want the board to make a decision that would affect their term. On Thursday, they extended the favor to next board.

– E-mail William Ferchland at