Leaders of a Marin taxpayers group and one of the county’s largest school districts squared off Wednesday on how to avoid program and service cuts while keeping parcel taxes under control and surviving a rising pension cost tsunami.
“We have here ‘Sophie’s Choice,’” said Mimi Willard, a founder of the grassroots Coalition of Sensible Taxpayers. “Are we going to cut services or raise taxes and fees?”
Leslie Harlander, board president of Tamalpais Union High School District, said a district fiscal advisory committee is looking at a range of program and staff cuts and consolidations — such as having a principal oversee two high schools instead of one. On March 13, the Tam district’s board of trustees voted to issue four preliminary layoff notices to three librarians and one wellness center director — but those were not final and could be rescinded later on as per the committee’s recommendations.
“Our district revenue is not keeping pace with expenses,” said Harlander, pointing to a triple-whammy of increasing enrollment, slowing property tax revenue and rising pension costs.
Willard and Harlander made their comments before about 60 people at the monthly Marin Coalition luncheon at The Club at McInnis Park golf center in San Rafael.
The event, “Marin’s Dilemma — Service Cuts or Tax Hikes?,” produced few answers but did raise a lot of questions.
Chief among them was the methods used in the upcoming Measure B parcel tax on the May 8 mail-in ballot in the Dixie School District in San Rafael.
Willard and other COST members say a per-square-footage tax would be more fair in Dixie than a flat rate parcel tax if the district gets a lot of new apartments as expected. That’s because the apartment complexes would pay for only one parcel tax per lot, but each lot could include dozens of apartments. COST members say the per-square-foot tax is not “illegal,” as the Measure B proponents claim, and is already in use in several East Bay school districts.
But Dixie Superintendent Jason Yamashiro disputed that assertion in an email Wednesday.
See the story in the Marin IJ HERE