Parcel tax discussion stirs little interest in community 

Millbrae School District officials emphasized the importance of community support for a possible parcel tax this spring, but few people showed up to a Tuesday meeting to voice their opinions either way.

Like many districts in the area, Millbrae has seen declining enrollment since 1997, according to a report by the District Advisory Committee. That and $1.8 million in cuts since 2003 — which hit music programs and library staff — has made finding new sources of revenue a high priority.

The district is again considering a parcel tax this year, possibly for the scheduled June 5 election or a special mail-in election on May 8. If approved, a $98 annual tax would bring nearly $619,000 more into the district.

School districts often use a parcel tax, which levies a flat tax on every property owner in the area in question, as an ongoing revenue source to fund anything from teacher salaries to supplies to special programs.

The district has not gone to the voters since a failed 1994 parcel tax measure. Officials considered giving it another shot in November, but thought that several education-related measures already on the hefty ballot would hurt their chances of approval, Superintendent Karen Philip said.

There have been talks for years on how to boost revenue in the cash-strapped district. The District Advisory Committee, comprised of parents, community members and district staff, was formed in 2004 to help with long-term fiscal planning and recovery. In 2005, the group recommended selling the Millbrae School site on Alp Way — which is now slated for redevelopment as housing — as well as establishing an education foundation and putting a parcel tax on the ballot.

As part of those recommendations, the district conducted community surveys in the springs of 2005 and 2006 to gauge public support for a parcel tax. The 2006 surveyfound that 54 percent of the people surveyed would support a parcel tax of $98 annually not the two-thirds needed for approval. Philip said she hopes the most recent public outreach, in the form of mailed brochures and public meetings, will solidify more support so they can move forward.

The next meeting on the issue is scheduled for 7 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 6, in Council Chambers, 621 Magnolia Ave.

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