District weighs tax for schools 

Eager to stem the loss of revenue from dwindling enrollment, the Jefferson Elementary School District community may soon be debating a tax to bolster the district’s funds.

The board asked Superintendent Barbara Wilson on Wednesday to research polling services that have led to successful parcel taxes on the Peninsula.

The informa-tion is preliminary and not an indication that the district will pursue such a tax, but Board President Anthony Dennis and others said they definitely support one in an effort to boost the district’s ability to retain and attract highly qualified teachers.

Wilson gave a rough estimate that a mail-in election — a cheaper alternative to holding a special election — would cost $100,000. She also said contracting with a polling service to learn how much voters would be willing to spend and what programs they would like to see would cost the district approximately $15,000, but the district could spend $10,000 left over from 2001’s $52 million bond on polling.

In the last 10 years, the school district’s enrollment has slumped from 8,075 students to 5,959 for a variety of reasons, most notably the absence of affordable housing in the area.

When students leave the district, they take with them Average Daily Attendance funds from the state. Jefferson Elementary School District is near the bottom in the county for revenues per average daily attendance, bringing in $6,744 per during 2004-05, according to Ed-Data, an education Web site that provides public information. Portola Valley Elementary has the highest, with nearly $15,000 in revenues per daily attendance.

The district has been looking at selling or leasing its surplus property for revenue as well as increasing enrollment, which would bring in more funds from the state. Dennis said that combining those two practices with a parcel tax would help strengthen the district financially.

"I think this is one of the answers ... to raising our overall" funds, Dennis said at Wednesday’s board meeting.

Twelve districts in the county have passed parcel taxes. Millbrae and Pacifica elementary school districts are in the middle of their campaigns right now. Melinda Dart, president of the Jefferson district’s Classroom Teachers Association, said the union was "overwhelmingly glad" to see a parcel tax discussed. The district’s employees haven’t had a cost of living adjustment in six years.

Ann Radel, a special education aide for the district, said if the district pursued a parcel tax she would want to know specifically what the money would be used for.

"I’m not going to mislead my neighbors for something that I have no heart for," Radel said.


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