About this site

I was a Governing Board Member of the San Carlos School District, elected November 2007 and again in November 2011. This site was originally used for the purpose of communicating with school district constituents, however now it is used for surfacing ideas and expressing opinions on various subjects in education, politics, business, or otherwise.

Please note that any opinion express here is purely personal and does not necessarily reflect the position or opinion of anyone else or any organization with which I am, or have been, associated.

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October 2014
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To Increase or Not to Increase, That is the Question

At last Thursday’s School Board Meeting, the board heard a presentation by Godbe Research and TBWB Strategies, two firms that the District hired to help understand the options regarding (and the community’s view on) a potential parcel tax renewal and increase next Spring.

As background, the District currently has two parcel taxes in place, Measure A and Measure B, which collectively bring in about $2 million per year for the school district. Parcel taxes are flat amounts levied per real estate parcel (irrespective of appraised value), and the funds generated for such taxes go to the school district general fund. Parcel taxes must pass with a 2/3 supermajority of voters in favor and are generally in force for a specific term. This funding — along with the money raised by the San Carlos Education Foundation — has become absolutely critical for San Carlos, which is one of the lowest funding school districts in the state. Measure A was passed in 2011 for an eight-year term, and Measure B was passed in 2009 for a six-year term. Accordingly, Measure B — if not renewed — would expire next year. Therefore, the District hired Godbe and TBWB to look at various scenarios to place a measure on the ballot for May 5, 2015, which could either renew the existing Measure B parcel tax or potentially renew and increase the tax. They also looked at the possibility of renewing the tax while combining it with Measure A.

As many of you know, the new Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) cements San Carlos’ position as a low-funded district for many years. Understanding this fact as well as the very grand goals outlined in the District’s Strategic Plan, one of the agreed-upon goals for the 2014-2015 school year is to significantly increase our financial resources to have the ability to meet all of our lofty objectives. Recently, community members may have seen a notice from the District to participate in an Ad Hoc Revenue Enhancement Committee so that we can explore multiple ways to accomplish this.

Naturally at a minimum, we need to preserve the funds by renewing the Measure B tax, but increasing it can of course be a significant way to increase our ongoing revenue. Therefore, Godbe Research conducted a survey of San Carlos voters in September and October to understand their view of the school district and their thoughts about these possibilities around the parcel tax. Overall, the sentiment was very positive both in an absolute sense as well as compared to results seen by other school districts. Here are some highlights:

  • 72% of voters (and 85% of parents) had a favorable opinion on whether SCSD is providing a quality education to students, with only 8% having an unfavorable opinion (remainder were unsure, which for non-parents was higher — 27% of non-parents were not sure)
  • 52% of voters (and 67% of parents) had a favorable opinion on whether SCSD is effectively managing public funds. 20% had an unfavorable opinion, with the remainder unsure (which was also highest in the non-parent population — 35% of non-parents were not sure).
  • When initially asked about a potential measure which would renew the existing parcel tax, combine it with the other measure, and increase it by an additional $98 per year, the “yes” votes came to 66%, just below the margin to pass. (Note also that the poll had a margin of error of plus or minus almost 5%)
  • After hearing the more specific features of the renew/increase measure as well as arguments for and against it, support increased to approximately 71%
  • When asked about different potential increase rates (e.g. $98 vs. $78 vs. $58), there was little difference in the percentage of voters that would support
  • When asked about a straight renewal without an increase, the support went to almost 77%

The conclusion of the polling firm and our consultant was that there is indeed continued strong support of the school district within our community, and most folks clearly see the importance of sustained and increased funding for schools. A straight renewal of Measure B would be considered an extremely likely measure to pass. With respect to a renewal and increase, their opinion was that there was a very good chance for such a measure to pass if it was accompanied by a very strong campaign that primarily reached non-parents who clearly had much less information than parents on the successes of the school district. (As you may recall, campaigns are not paid for or run by the district — they have to be run by an independent committee which raises private funds on its own).

Therefore, it was the consensus of the board that we have further conversations with the community to see if there is this energy and appetite to lead such a strong campaign. If there is, then going with the increase option may be the shortest route to accomplish some of our goals. If we feel there won’t be strong leadership and drive within the community (most of these efforts are led by parents and include volunteers across the community, including teachers and other staff members working on their own time), then we may go the conservative route with the straight renewal. The Board will likely have to make a final decision and place a measure on the ballot by the end of January, and in the meantime can communicate with both parents and non-parents about our current predicament and best understand the community’s perspective. I encourage folks to volunteer for the Revenue Committee as well as to share your thoughts with me, fellow board members, and Dr. Baker.

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