The Silicon Valley Voice

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Schools Desk: Aug. 17, 2016

SCUSD Board Decides Against Extending Parcel Tax, Citing Promise to Voters

In a sudden change of course, the Santa Clara Unified school board voted 5-2 at its July 21 meeting against renewing 2012’s Measure A parcel tax for five years beyond its 2017 expiration. Board President Albert Gonzalez and Trustee Christopher Stampolis voted in favor of renewal.

After three hearings on the proposal, the board majority agreed that renewal would contradict the ballot measure that voters approved in 2012: “Shall the Santa Clara Unified School District levy an annual assessment of $84 a year per parcel for five years only.”

Trustee Andy Ratermann asked his colleagues of they would be asking for a new parcel tax if one wasn’t already in place, and if so, “what do you think is so important that we can justify asking our citizens to pay a special tax?”

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He reminded them that “tax money is not free,” and a parcel tax is regressive, and hits the least able to pay the hardest. It’s a last resort in a financial crisis of the kind the district faced from 2003 into 2013, after being forced to cut its budget by almost $30 million in 2016 dollars.

“We have a good reputation for stewardship of the money entrusted to us,” said Ratermann. “Because of this, we also enjoy a high level of trust in the community. When we ask for help, we only do so when it we really need it.”

SCUSD Budget in the Green

Santa Clara Unified’s budget continues to be healthy, that’s the main message from Assistant Superintendent of Business Services, Mark Allgire. “We’ve been able to restore and add programs, and provide employee compensation increases. We’re stable.” Stability is a welcome place for the school district after more than a decade of volatile and uncertain budgets.

Regular property tax revenue – SCUSD’s primary funding – is up 5 percent to $172 million according to the 2016-17 adopted budget published in June. Total district revenue – property tax, federal and state grants, parcel taxes, Santa Clara Redevelopment Agency dissolution one-time distributions – is estimated at $198 million.

That includes $27 million in former RDA agency tax revenue, $23 million from Santa Clara’s former RDA and $4 million from San Jose’s, according to the County Controller-Treasurer’s office. Property tax revenues will increase as RDA debt is retired, returning that money to the regular property tax distribution.

Only Community Funded – formerly Basic Aid, funded with local property taxes – districts receive direct benefit from the RDA shutdown. Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) districts – formerly Revenue Limit – receive state subsidies because their property tax revenue doesn’t reach the state’s mandated per-student amount. Other Community Funded school districts in Santa Clara – Campbell elementary and high school, and Fremont High School – get little additional money from the RDA shutdown.

Cupertino elementary gets none because it’s an LCFF district. Cupertino districts won’t get a boost from the new Apple campus because that’s in SCUSD territory, although there are no students in that finger of commercial real estate.

Projections by the Santa Clara County Assessor’s office indicate that actual property tax revenues will be higher. Carryovers from the 2015-16 fiscal year, which are added to the revenue to make up the actual budget, won’t be available until end of August.

One-time revenue – state grants and revenue from the RDA shutdown – is estimated to be $3 million for the coming year, down from $11 million last year. That revenue will continue to decline as the RDAs finally unwind.

An additional $33 million will be locked up paying off San Jose’s RDA debt for the foreseeable future – likely into the 2030s.

District expenses are estimated to grow only 2.5 percent to $209 million in the coming year. This growth includes adding 58 additional teachers and a roughly15 percent increase in pension costs. The budget will be balanced and have a surplus when the year-end balances are carried forward. You can find the 2016-17 budget at http://agendaonline.net/public/santaclara attached to the June 30 meeting agenda.

More New SCUSD Schools on the Drawing Board

In addition to the three new schools planned in North San Jose (Agnews) and reopening Central Park Elementary School, the district has also embarked on plans to reopen two other closed schools.

Monticello School will be renovated to house New Valley and Gateway High Schools, and a new District Resource Center. Patrick Henry School will be rebuilt to relieve over-crowded Laurelwood Elementary, and the he district is considering several plans for attendance boundaries and grade distribution for the two schools.

Campbell Union Elementary District Planning Major Reorganization

In March Campbell Union Elementary School District (CUSD) Superintendent Eric Andrew proposed major changes at three of the K-8 district’s schools.

Rosemary School has a fifth grade for the first time in 20 years. At Village Elementary (currently K-5) and Campbell Middle (6-8) plans are in the works to expand to K-8 schools. The district is also modernizing Marshall Lane and Blackford Elementary Schools.

This year CUSD Preschool launches its new year-round, full-day Infant and Toddler program, for children ages 3-36 months. The new tuition-based program is at Rosemary School’s Family Learning Center. For more information, visit www.campbellusd.org.

Years ago, CUSD converted all its schools to district charter schools – “every school a school of choice,” the district calls it. This allows schools to offer unique programs – for example, Spanish/English immersion program at Sherman Oaks and Parent Participation program at Village – and gives schools more flexibility, according to CUSD Board Member Danielle Cohen.

Campbell High School Bond on November Ballot

Campbell Union High School District will have a $275 million facilities bond on the November ballot. The district says the money is needed four maintenance, modernization and expansion to accommodate a growing student population. The tax assessment is estimated to be $30 per $1,000 assessed property valuation. The measure requires a 55 percent approval from district voters.

South-of-Pruneridge Residents Lose State Appeal of School District Boundary Decision

The California Department of Education denied the Pruneridge neighborhood’s 2013 appeal of the County Committee on School District Organization’s refusal to change school district boundaries. The Santa Clara neighborhood, which is south of Pruneridge Ave. between Saratoga and Winchester, is in the Campbell Union elementary and high schools districts.

“Basically, [we were] blown off,” said neighborhood resident and Santa Clara Planning Commissioner Mike O”Halloran, who spearheaded the efforts.

The state BOE’s decision came down to an education establishment circling of the wagons. “The CDE agrees with the petitioners that all nine Education Code Section 35753 conditions are substantially met,” said the agency’s report. “However, the CDE does not find a compelling reason to overturn the County Committee’s action to disapprove the transfer.”

The neighborhood supplies a disproportionate percentage of the Campbell districts’ revenues – at last estimate (2013), about $90,000 per student. The Campbell districts haven’t ever denied this; it’s always been their leading argument with the County and the State. The districts closed all the schools serving the neighborhood, selling two – including the elementary school within the Santa Clara boundary.

Sacramento has its own money motives. If the Campbell districts – now Community Funded – fall below the LCFF limit, the state would have to subsidize the difference.

No one from the Pruneridge neighborhood sits on either of the Campbell boards. Only one Campbell official, Campbell Unified High School District Trustee Stacey Brown, has ever attended a Santa Clara community event as far as anyone knows.

The Santa Clara Unified school board is willing to accept the new students and has consistently supported the change. However, SCUSD won’t accept inter-district transfers because it gets very little additional funding to serve those students.

The state BOE’s report concluded by suggesting “local alternatives” to resolve the question. One is that SCUSD enroll the students without receiving any money. The second is that the districts enter into a revenue-sharing agreement, leaving the territory in the Campbell districts. This was proposed by Campbell in 2013, but neighborhood representatives opposed that solution as a half-measure that could create future problems and the SCUSD board voted against it.

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