Peninsula schools going to voters for cash 

Smaller class sizes, retaining qualified teachers and maintaining libraries are just some of the benefits the San Mateo-Foster City Elementary School District will see, school officials say, if a parcel tax increase is approved by voters in February.

The elementary school district, along with Burlingame Elementary School District and the San Mateo Community College District, is among school entities on the Peninsula going to voters for more revenue — or considering asking for more — in order to support the education of local students.

San Mateo-Foster City officials will send out a mail-in ballot the week of Jan. 25 asking voters to renew an existing parcel tax for another seven years with an increase from about $84 per parcel per year to $180 annually. The ballots are due back by Feb. 23.

The district is already facing a reduction of $3.5 million from state cuts, Rosas said. Without renewal of the parcel tax, an additional $10 million in cuts would need to be made.

“The parcel tax coming to an end, it further complicates things,” Rosas said. “It means we have to look for that much more funding.”

In March, Burlingame voters are also being asked to renew its district’s parcel tax of $180 per parcel for the next 10 years, which will pay for classroom materials, art and music programs, according to the district.

For both parcel taxes, a two-thirds majority is needed to approve the measure.

A group called Californians for Improved School Funding is proposing an initiative to amend the state constitution so that school districts can pass parcel taxes with less voter approval — 55 percent.

“This initiative offers California’s public school immediate, direct help as they cope with a state education budget under stress,” the group writes on its Web site.

Education has been cut by $6 billion statewide last year. Although Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger promised Wednesday in his State of the State address to refrain from making additional cuts to education, many district officials said they will wait until the state’s final budget is out to see if the promise holds true.

Barbara Christensen, spokeswoman with the San Mateo Community College District, said officials are exploring whether there is support for a parcel tax, maintenance assessment district or general bond measure to help with recent revenue losses.

“Education has been hurt badly,” she said. “But ... people understand education’s importance and that makes me optimistic.”

Christensen said the college district has not yet gone for a parcel tax or assessment district. It passed a $468 million general obligation bond in 2006. That bond is paying for construction and upgrades at all three district campuses.

Christensen said the district aims to put one of the three before voters this year but amounts have not been determined.

Vote by mail

Two Peninsula school districts are sending out mail-in ballots for parcel taxes in the coming months:

San Mateo-Foster City Elementary School District

Ballots due by: Feb. 23
What for: Measure A — a $180 annual parcel tax renewal/increase for seven years to preserve quality education by attracting and retaining qualified teachers and staff, maintaining school libraries
Needs: Two-thirds majority

Burlingame Elementary School District

Ballots due by: March 2
What for: Measure B — a $180 annual parcel tax renewal for 10 years beginning 2011. Renewal would protect critical school programs, including math and science, reading and writing, books and classroom materials, and school library services
Needs: Two-thirds majority

akoskey@sfexaminer.com

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