Alameda voters to decide on parcel tax

June 7, 2010 6:01:31 PM PDT
The budget cuts in Sacramento have forced cities to turn to voters for help making ends meet. Parcel taxes are one way for some districts to save teaching positions and keep class sizes small, but getting a parcel tax passed in this economy is harder than ever.

One good example is the city of Alameda. Homeowners and business owners know schools will have to make drastic cuts if a parcel tax there doesn't pass, but many cannot afford it. It is a mail-in ballot and voters have until June 22 to decide.

When families move to the city of Alameda, many come for the good public schools.

"It's something you know as a parent when you move here you say, 'OK, I am willing to pay this much more for a house because I don't have to pay for private school, I don't have to worry about these things, I can have kindergarten all the way up to high school here,'" says Bryan Rice of Alameda.

But because of the state's drastic budget cuts, Alameda schools are in jeopardy unless voters pass Measure E, a parcel tax that would generate $14 million a year.

John Knox White is the spokesperson for the Yes On Measure E campaign.

"Twenty-five percent of our teachers have been pink slipped. If Measure E does not pass, most of them will not be rehired," says Knox White.

That means there would be more kids in a classroom and the district says it might have to consolidate schools.

As Sacramento continues to slash its education budget, cities have relied more and more on parcel taxes to fund schools. For example, according to the education data partnership, in the 2008-2009 school year $251 million were raised through parcel taxes compared to $114 million in 2003-2004.

Measure E would more than double what Alameda homeowners already pay for a previous parcel tax. A yes vote would increase it from $309 to $659 a year over eight years.

Ed Hirshberg is with the No On E Campaign. He says now's not the time to increase taxes.

"California currently has they say about 12 percent unemployment. They say the real number is close to 17 percent and ultimately business needs to get back on its feet in order for there to be enough wealth to support the schools and other social programs that we want to support," says Hirshberg.

Some business owners are threatening to go to court to get rid of the parcel tax altogether.

Parcel taxes are especially popular in the Bay Area. From 2001 to 2009, 83 school districts in California passed parcel taxes. Of that number, 66 districts were in the Bay Area.


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