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Tax measure heads to ballot
November 25, 2009, 03:28 AM By Heather Murtagh

Burlingame voters will decide if a $180 annual parcel tax supporting schools, set to end in 2011, should be extended 10 years after the district Board of Trustees voted to put such a measure to an all-mail ballot in March.

Voters in Burlingame previously approved two taxes totaling $180 — Measure A, a $76 yearly parcel tax for eight years passed in 2003, and Measure S, a $104 annual parcel tax for six years that started in 2005. With both ending in 2011, the board decided to combine the measures and extend the total amount in a parcel measure set for an all-mail ballot March 2. If passed, the measure would begin in July 2011 lasting 10 years. Annually, the tax generates $1.4 million for the district, according to a staff report by Chief Business Official Robert Clark.

Trustee Marc Friedman, who serves on the parcel tax subcommittee, explained the district has a strong level of support for a modest increase but has never done an all-mail ballot before.

"This is still going to be difficult. Asking voters for a tax increase during difficult times, even if it is for kids, is difficult to do. … This is the time to keep taxes where they are,” he said.

Bill Crandall, co-chair of the Committee to Protect Great Burlingame Schools, which supports the parcel tax, said the increase could mean more for the district but could potentially lose the current revenue in an attempt to generate more.

"Failure would be devastating to the district at a time when California is deeply cutting education. … Staff would be impacted and that is unacceptable in our opinion,” he said.

Trustee Michael Barber noted going for the current rate does not guarantee success. However, he said trying for a higher amount lessens the chances for success. Once passed, the district could always ask for an increase when the economy improves, he said.

Godbe Research conducted a 13-minute telephone survey of 400 people between Oct. 28 and Nov. 2. A variety of taxing options were considered including remaining at the same level and increasing the measure. Continuing the tax at the current rate garnered the most support at 82 percent of respondents saying they would definitely or probably support such a measure. Polling results were supportive of such a measure if it supported math and science programs, maintained school library services and maintained art and music programs.

Burlingame voters are generally supportive of school measures. Two years ago, voters approved a $48.3 million bond measure for capital improvements, costing $30 per $100,000 of the assessed value of a property over 30 years.


Heather Murtagh can be reached by e-mail: heather@smdailyjournal.com or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 105.


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