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San Bruno places parcel tax on November ballot
July 26, 2012, 05:00 AM By Heather Murtagh Daily Journal Staff

San Bruno school officials are hoping to raise about $2 million annually with a five-year parcel tax it voted to put on the November ballot last night.

The San Bruno Park School District Board of Trustees voted 3-1, with Trustee Jennifer Blanco in opposition and Trustee Jim Prescott absent, to place a five-year $199 annual parcel tax on the November ballot. Trustees pointed to budget issues as the main reason for seeking the tax.

"It’s taken a while to see that this (utilizing a parcel tax) is the new normal,” said Trustee Kevin Martinez, who worked on the measure details with Trustee Henry Sanchez. "It’s not a matter of staying the course and getting to the next year. We really do need to take care of ourselves.”

Local funding, Martinez said, is also key since the state has recently gotten creative in its cuts.

As proposed, the tax would be used to sustain neighborhood schools, reduce the number of combination classes, attract and retain teachers, reduce the cost of special education and fund curriculum modernization, according to the proposed measure language. It requires two-thirds support to pass. If passed, the tax would go into effect July 1, 2013.

Sanchez said the measure is not just about this year. The district could lose $1.17 million if the state’s sales tax measures do not pass. Who knows what the future years will require in terms of cuts, he said.

"We just know the cuts for this year,” said Sanchez. "We need to take a strategic planning approach to be ahead of the curve.”

Blanco, who generally favors the idea of a parcel tax, shared concerns. She felt the proposed language was too vague and the timing was poor. The November ballot, she said, has many measures already.

"I don’t feel that the community trusts the district enough to pass this parcel tax,” she said.

Board President Skip Henderson disagreed. He felt the support was there and it could pass. But that will require everyone to work together, he said. Being more specific about how the money will support academic achievement will be addressed in the future, he said.

San Bruno voters have not historically been supportive of tax measures.

Measure O, a $40 million bond, failed to achieve the 55 percent threshold needed to pass in 2011. The board placed the measure on the ballot in hopes of funding facility upgrades including finishing upgrades at Parkside Intermediate School.

While the district hasn’t previously gone to the voters for a parcel tax, it did consider an $87 annual levy in 2008. In fact, the board voted to put it on the March 2009 ballot. But in November 2008, the measure was brought back before the board after parents expressed an understanding for the need, but did not think the timing nor the approved ballot language was right. The decision was rescinded, in a 3-2 vote, with trustees Jennifer Blanco and Kevin Martinez dissenting.

San Bruno is the third district to place a measure on the November ballot.

The San Carlos Elementary School District Board of Trustees previously placed a $72 million bond measure on the November ballot, which could be used for updating technology, repairing schools, improving traffic safety, reducing overcrowding and upgrading energy efficiencies to create long-term savings, according to the district.

On Tuesday, the Burlingame Elementary School District placed a $56 million bond measure on the November ballot to increase capacity and technology.

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

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