Millbrae schools reaching out to elderly for funding 

The Millbrae Elementary School District has its hands full this month convincing an electorate, one-third of which are senior citizens, to pass a parcel tax aimed at restoring three years of budget cuts to the cash-strapped district.

If passed by Millbrae voters, the parcel tax would increase property taxes by $78 annually for each property owner in the city and bring an additional $492,648 to the district annually.

The new revenue stream would be used to restore, among other things, music programs and custodial positions.

District Superindendent Karen Philip said she and a local committee gunning to approve Measure R have been cognizant of the fact that reaching a senior electorate will be a key component in the measure’s success.

Philip said that part of reaching out has included making forms for the exemption readily available at the city’s recreation center, at the district office, and via snail mail.

While the seniors can apply to be exempt from the tax increase once the measure is passed, the measure does need their votes to pass in the first place.

Longtime resident Catherine Lucio said she plans on applying for the parcel tax exemption. But she said she and some of her fellow seniors are still planning on voting for the tax.

"I don’t have any kids of my own, but I do believe in schools," Lucio said.

The district estimates that it could receive 20 percent less than the ideal $492,000 should all senior voters who also own property apply for the senior exemption to the tax.

As with many voter-approved tax measures, the exemption is available for residents age 65 and older.

Though 30 percent of the electorate are seniors, only approximately 20 percent are property owners, Philip said.

Therefore, only seniors who own property — and pay property taxes — would be affected. Millbrae has 11,471 registered voters total, according to the San Mateo County Elections Office.

Ballots for the special mail-in tax went out to these voters last week, and must be at the San Mateo County Elections Office by May 8.

"We understand that some seniors may consider the exemption," Philip said. "But the revenue we would have is still better than nothing."

A parcel tax, which levies a flat tax on every property owner, is often used by school districts as an ongoing revenue source to fund anything from teacher salaries to supplies to special programs.

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