Supporters of a $67 annual parcel tax to benefit Redwood City schools say it will allow for educational enhancements while opponents call for creative solutions using resources the district already has.
The Redwood City Elementary School District placed the five-year measure, which could bring in $1.7 million annually, on the ballot in February. District supporters say the funds will support reading, writing, science and math. Passing a parcel tax requires two-thirds support. The election is June 5.
Emerald Hills resident Jack Hickey, a representative of the Libertarian Party of San Mateo County, which opposes the measure, thinks education in general should offer more choices. Without it, giving money to a flawed system, he argued, doesn’t make sense.
Trustee Dennis McBride explained the district has cut $25 million since 2007. About half of that, $12 million, hasn’t been felt fully as the district has utilized one-time federal funds and reserves to help lessen the blow. In that same period of time, McBride added, the district’s enrollment has increased by 1,000 students.
Hickey, on the other hand, said the district has opportunities to save and raise money by using its property differently. Given the space available, Hickey said the district should be able to close two schools and comfortably fit all its students. Those vacant properties could be leased out to create revenue for the district.
Julie Guaspari, a parent volunteer co-chairing Redwood City Community for Better Schools, pointed out the inequities in per pupil funding for elementary school districts which feed into the Sequoia High School District. Redwood City is the only one without a parcel tax.
Details of how the funds would exactly be used if passed have not yet been discussed. As written in the ballot language, the money should also help retain and attract qualified teachers; and support school libraries. Such funds could be used to have specialists in subjects like reading and math who come to a class and work with a small group of students, said McBride. While those students work with a specialist, the teacher has a smaller group of students with which to work.
Before putting a measure on the ballot, a community survey was taken in January showing support of 73 percent or higher for a $75 parcel tax in either the June or November election. Looking for new revenue sources has been a struggle for the district which has seen an increase in class sizes and the workload for almost all employees since the 2007-08 school year.
A parcel tax would provide a new stream of revenue, which is why district officials have long researched the possibility. Redwood City has attempted a parcel tax before in 1993, 2005 and 2009; all failed to pass.
Heather Murtagh can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 105.