The is hoping to renew and increase a parcel tax that voters approved in 2008.
PSD Board members voted unanimously on Tuesday, Aug. 9, to ask Pacifica property owners to reapprove the current tax that expires in 2013, and increase it from $96 a year to $118 a year. The renewal must receive a two-thirds majority approval by voters on Nov. 8, which the 2008 tax barely gained by a single vote after a nail-biter return.
The tax would generate $1.2 million annually for math, science, reading and writing programs, as well as protect teachers’ salaries and funding for libraries, struggling students, and classroom computer instruction.
This new parcel tax would replace the old one before it expires, but there would not be two taxes levied at once. The new parcel tax, if approved, would expire in 2017. Seniors over 65-years-old can continue to receive an exemption, and revenues from the tax would still be under the scrutiny of PSD’s Citizens’ Oversight Committee.
Parcel taxes such as this one provide school districts with a reliable source of income, as funding from the state has become more sporadic and diminished.
Since 2008, when the parcel tax, called Measure N, was originally passed, the state has cut PSD’s funding by $1.7 million, or ten percent of its annual budget, and the district faces another $600,000 in cuts next year.
“Without our existing parcel tax, we would be forced to make significant cuts to academic programs and we could lose great teachers,” said Wendy Tukloff, superintendent of the Pacifica School District.
After a poll done earlier this year by the private consulting firm Godbe Research, the district had some key talking points it feels the public would respond to during the campaign: Without the approval of the tax, the district would be forced to lay off approximately 13 teachers, cut the school year by two or three weeks, and better schools mean better home values.
In the same poll, 76 percent of respondents indicated that they would support a five-year parcel tax of $118, the amount PSD is asking for in November.
Campaign supporters believe this public sentiment is, in part, due to how the revenue from the 2008 tax has been used.
“I have been a teacher in Pacifica for 37 years, and I have seen the incredible dedication of our students,” said Patty McNally, teacher at . “The local funding measure (passed in 2008) was instrumental in protecting critical academic programs like science and math. By renewing this measure, we can continue our district’s tradition of academic excellence.”
When asked if she felt this campaign was different from the one leading up to the 2008 close call, , co-chair of the campaign, said she believed it was, especially with regard to experience and preparedness.
She said current campaign supporters are being advised by the three co-chairs of the last campaign—Pacifica Councilwoman Mary Ann Nihart, PSD Board Members Eileen Manning-Villar and Joan Weideman—and school district supporters need not start from scratch when it comes to a political action committee, for instance, which they did not have pre-2008. Now, they have Saving Pacifica Schools, of which Salahuddin is president.
Manning-Villar said community members have been more forthcoming out of the gate with their support and willingness to make phone calls and knocks-on-doors this time around.
“I think we’re having more community members, such as Susan Vellone (former and ) and Mary Brown (), popping out early,” she said. “That’s one of my favorite things.”
But what of the seemingly anti-tax voting climate?
Locally, the Jefferson Union High School District (JUHSD) - which both and high schools are governed by - recently . This doesn’t scare Salahuddin, however.
She pins the failure on that district’s lack of a "Get Out The Vote", or encouragement aspect for voters to actually get to the polls in its campaign.
“If you look at JUHSD’s numbers - especially the first time - from the poll, the city of Pacifica said, 'yes we do want to have it [the tax]',” Salahuddin said. “But the day of votes was low. Even if people approve of it (in a poll), you have to make sure people vote. I think if they would have actively voted, it would have passed the first time around.”
Manning-Villar believes that a PSD parcel tax will be an exception to the rule in the eyes of a voting public that might .
“I think people are upset with their governments in general terms but I think that it is more applicable with your national and state governments,” she said. “It’s not like it’s an easy time, but because we know where the money is going. I think the community will support it [the tax] despite the financial stresses. What the polling is showing us is that the community is going to support local kids.”
For more information on the parcel tax and campaign, including endorsements, go to Saving Pacifica School’s website.