Fairness of Marin school parcel taxes debated
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preliminary layoff notices to three librarians and one wellness center director — but those were not final and could be rescinded later on as per the committee’s recommendations.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
Our letter to the Marin IJ
Nikki Mullen says, “I would be very open to working with anyone from our community in a positive manner to improve our schools.."
I gratefully accept her request as one of the primary writers of the "No on Measure B" ballot arguments. I am a Dixie Parent, Volunteer and homeowner, just as all of the endorsers. Co$t is a Marin County based taxpayers group and they were brought in for support for their expertise and knowledge on tax matters.
1.) A good first step to "working positively" with the community is to begin with an apology to us for the personal attack as being "not being involved with the schools and don't talk with the children or understand needs" It is the first time, that anyone can remember where such attacks were allowed on a parcel tax argument. It cheapens the conversation. We are Dixie parents, volunteers, teachers and coaches with up to 45 years residency in the community. We are not anti-tax despite your claim.
2.) The Dixie Measure B proponents must stop implying that parcel taxes based on square footage uniformly applied are illegal. This is simply outrageous that they are telling the public this. As they know, parcel taxes based on square footage are legal when properly applied. Berkeley Unified School District and West Contra County School district have had parcel taxes based on square footage for years.
I issue a challenge: Please cite the exact law and case studies where parcel taxes based on square footage uniformly are illegal.
3.) Divulge the real estate holdings by the board, supporters and staff that will receive parcel tax increases if the square footage rule is applied. I know of two such ballot sponsors that have large commercial properties and apartments.
Our purpose for the "No on Measure B" argument is to make certain new parcel taxes are fair. Currently a large complex with 100 units will pay the same amount as a condo. We do not think this is fair. Apartments may have many students yet the parcel taxes will cover just one.
Currently, large apartment complexes are being discussed for Four Points Sheraton, Northgate Mall, Scotties Market, Silveira Ranch and Lucas Valley. Each complex will hold hundreds of families.
There is time to get this right. The current tax expires in 2019. Bring this tax back at a regular election with a fair "square footage" rate and you will justly earn the support of the community.
Both the Superintendent and Ms Mullens have been given our contact information if they truly want to "work on solutions" with us. Let's hope they will reconsider their political approach for the good of our community.
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