Lamorinda Must Support Parcel Tax To Offset Deficits

by Sophia Bollag

The parcel tax must be passed in order to maintain the quality of education at Miramonte

In order to sustain the quality of education at Miramonte, it is imperative that the community vote for the
$112 supplementary AUHSD parcel tax to bring in much needed money to the district. The current annual $189 per parcel tax generates $6.7 million per year and exempts senior citizens.

At a meeting on Feb. 2, the School Board decided to put the option for the additional supplementary parcel tax on a special mail-in ballot this April. It is very important that residents vote for this tax.

The district is facing $4.8 million in cuts for the 2010-2011 school year. Parents’ clubs and the education foundations of the cities in the district have pledged $800,000 to offset these cuts.

With the current parcel tax increased by $112 per parcel, it would supplement revenues enough to make up the leftover $4 million deficit. If this $4 million is not made up, the district’s proposal to cut over 50 teaching positions will take effect, which translates to the elimination or reduction of some AP classes, English electives, seventh period classes, science classes, visual and performing arts classes, and will dramatically increase class sizes for core curriculum classes. Several librarians and counselors will also be cut.

On top of the cuts already made last year, the school cannot handle even larger class sizes and still maintain its high API scores.

The parcel tax would “save a large portion of the educational programs that the students and community have come to expect.  It would be a short term parcel tax and not added to the existing one,” said Business Services Associate Superintendant for the district, Chris Learned.

“I feel like it’s absolutely imperative to increase our parcel tax because the $4.8 million in budget cuts would be devastating to the high school,” said Sarah Butler, a Miramonte parent who is helping lead the parcel tax campaign.

There are those, however, who openly oppose the idea of an increased parcel tax.

In a comment left on an article about the idea of an increased tax on the Lamorinda Sun website last year, a poster, who signed only as “Sickened,” wrote, “I am so sick and tired of the Lamorinda school districts turning to the homeowners, again, again, and again for more money. We don’t have anymore to give…. You’ll always come back to us because of the State’s situation. Try something else besides trying to increase the multiple parcel taxes that we pay…. Balance your budget like we have to.”

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

The bottom line is, not paying now will not save any money in the long term. Homeowners in the district will wish they had been generous when the ghost of parcel taxes not passed comes back to haunt them. If programs are cut and the district’s test scores drop, so will the market value of housing in Lamorinda.

There are even more dire consequences. Degradation of high school education reduces college acceptance rates, which in turn brings down the socioeconomic status of the community.

The schools’ funding comes from three places: state funding, parent donations, and the current parcel tax.

From the state, Miramonte currently receives $6,000 per student per year. Revenue from the state makes up 68% of the school’s funding.

According to the Education Foundation of Orinda Website, “Per student state funding at Miramonte is about 20% less than comparably ranked schools in California and up to 40% less than comparable schools in other states such as Connecticut or Illinois.”

The Miramonte Parent’s club has contributed $89 per student this year. The Education Foundation of Orinda has contributed $255 per student. According to Learned, these contributions make up roughly 3.5% of the funding.

The current parcel tax is responsible for roughly 13.4% of revenues.

The option of increasing the parcel tax was proposed last year, but was dropped before the election in June. There was a measure on the ballot last June that concerned the parcel tax, Measure G, which did pass, but that measure did not increase the parcel tax, it simply renewed the $189 per parcel rate.

Measure G “was a renewal at the same amount and that $189 has been the same amount since 2005,” said Butler.

Now, faced with decreasing donations and state budget cuts, an increased parcel tax is the only option left.