School board to decide outcome of parcel tax |

School board to decide outcome of parcel tax

William Ferchland, Tribune staff writer

Three meetings on Tuesday regarding a possible parcel tax will prepare the Lake Tahoe Unified School District school board for a go-ahead vote tomorrow.

Thursday’s vote will decide if the parcel tax will go before the district’s 12,692 voters and whether it will be on the March or April ballot. Two-thirds of the 12,692 voters are required to pass the tax.

Superintendent Diane Scheerhorn said a tax of $60 to $100 per parcel for six years is the target. It would raise an estimated $3 million annually.

The additional revenue, which can be used for any purpose, would erase the expected $1.5 million shortfall for next school year and likely evaporate the possibility of closing a school, eliminate the $100 bus fee, reinstate the elementary physical education teachers, maintain class-size reduction and reinforce other areas.

Thursday will also involve a vote to hire a Sacramento consultant – for more than $40,000 – to run the campaign. Law requires the money would have to come from donations.

Tuesday’s agenda began with a 7 a.m. school board meeting. Scheerhorn stated a $12,000 survey entailing 4,000 phone calls to gather 400 responses will be ready for the board by Thursday.

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Meetings on Tuesday tested the feeling among parent representatives, principals and business leaders such as Duane Wallace and City Councilman John Upton. Scheerhorn described the meetings with parents and principals as “very supportive” of the tax, which would affect 38,906 parcels in the district.

Another decision is whether parcel owners older than 65 would be shielded from the tax. Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District, which has enjoyed the bounties of a parcel tax for eight years and is gearing up for a re-election, exempts adults older than 65.

From January 2002 to March 2003, 50 percent of 20 parcel tax elections in California were successful, research shows. Like LTUSD, the 20 districts needed money to maintain programs and keep teachers.

In the past four years the most expensive parcel tax has been $550 in Marin County with the least being $28 in Santa Cruz.

The March 2 election seems the likely date. It may bring more voters, since it has the Democratic presidential nominee selection. The Democratic Party would share the $20,000 cost of the election with LTUSD. The April 13 date is two days before the deadline to file federal income taxes and falls on spring break.

On Tuesday morning the district began looking at financial carryovers in case the parcel tax is denied. Scrapping together cash remnants from this fiscal year, the district has $624,766 in restricted and unrestricted funds it can use in 2004-05.

Scheerhorn fears that if a parcel tax isn’t approved for next school year, more programs and staff will be cut.

Thursday’s meeting will begin with public comment at 7 p.m. at the district office on Al Tahoe Boulevard.

– E-mail William Ferchland at