Parcel tax a necessity, candidates contend 

Pushing for a parcel tax for a depleted school system and finding ways to get the Asian community civically involved are a few hot topics in the Millbrae School District Board of Education race.

The district, which spends less money per student than any other in San Mateo County, has cut $1.8 million over the last three years and the board had to eliminate and reduce part-time aides and librarians last week.

The three candidates for two open positions are in support of a parcel tax to fund the schools. Measure R, which would have given $78 per taxable parcel to the district, narrowly failed in May.

"The only way Millbrae schools can bring in money right now is a parcel tax," said parent and businessman Frank Barbaro, who has never been on the board.

Former 12-year board member Dale Buettgenback and 12-year incumbent John Lynch agreed. Where they did not agree was on the current status of the board.

"You got to have more cooperation on the board," Buettgenback said. "We’re not communicating with the parents." Lynch disagreed, saying most votes end unanimously.

Buettgenback also said all board members should be present at meetings, alluding to a recent 16-week absence by Lynch, who is 85, when he came down with salmonella poisoning. Lynch, however, claims he was in constant communication with the rest of the board during his leave.

"They said I wasn’t going to survive, but I knew I had to come back and serve four more years on the school board," Lynch said. "So my prayers were answered."

Lynch also said he would not have run if he could have found an Asian-American community member to replace him. He believes the community is underrepresented on the City Council and school board — which have no Asian members — despite the fact that Asian-American students are the majority in the district.

Buettgenback said it was the school board’s responsibility to encourage more civic engagement from the Asian-American community, adding that it was a positive sign to see two Asian-American representatives running for City Council this year.

Barbaro, who called himself the "current candidate" who is "right in the trenches" as a parent, wants to get more moms and dads involved in the district. He thinks getting the word out about a future parcel tax would help push it toward approval. Just 44 percent of the city’s parents voted during the mail-in election, the district said.

Up for grabs on Nov. 6 will be the seats of Lynch and John Darro, who is running for City Council.

Frank Barbaro

» Age: 49

» Years in Millbrae: 12

» Occupation: Businessman

» Endorsements: Caroline Shea, Robert Miller, Marjory Luxenberg (school board); Gina Papan and Linda Larson (City Council)

Dale Buettgenback

» Age: 75

» Years in Millbrae: 30

» Occupation: Businessman

» Endorsements: Marjory Luxenberg, Robert Miller, John Darro (school board); Marc Hershman (departing mayor); Linda Larson (City Council)

John Lynch

» Age: 85

» Years in Millbrae: 45

» Occupation: Retired, incumbent

» Endorsements: Caroline Shea (school board), Gina Papan (City Council)

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