South City watching moods of voters on parcel tax 

Teachers and administrators in South San Francisco will be watching very carefully how voters react to two education parcel tax items on the ballot next week.

If Peninsula voters decide to support measures E and G, which respectively would provide parcel tax income for the Cabrillo Unified School District and the San Mateo County Community College District, then South San Francisco Unified might take heart and decide to take a bond measure to the voters in November.

Rather than a parcel tax — which requires a thumbs up from two-thirds of the district — the South San Francisco District will likely pursue a bond measure in November, which requires just 55 percent of the vote.

The trade-off is that while parcel taxes can pay for operations and programs in the classrooms, a bond measure can only pay for infrastructure needs.

South San Francisco is not short on infrastructure needs, explained district Associate Superintendent of Business Ron Little.
A committee tasked with analyzing those needs determined that the district needs about $250 million in infrastructure improvements, he said.

Among other things, the district would like to replace the 140 or so portable classrooms it’s using. Some of its schools are more than 80 years old and are in need of improvements to their water systems, their heating and cooling systems and their roofs. Many of the schools’ science labs are rooted firmly in the last century, he said.

The bond measure the district is considering would produce $144 million in revenue — enough to take care of a good portion of these problems.

The bond would be the first measure the district has taken to voters since the late 1990s and would likely require property owners to pay about $11 per $100,000 property value. Since the average home in South San Francisco is worth approximately $350,000, the average homeowner would see a bump of $38 more a year in their property taxes, Little said.

Though the measure would not solve the district’s financial woes, it could stave off a few cuts through a creative saving program, explained school board member Philip Weise.The bond could help the district pay for a solar plant at one of the schools, and the energy savings and rebates from the state could result in an additional $1.1 million or so in the school district’s budget over the next five years, he said.

Jan Speller, president of the South San Francisco Certified Teachers Association, said the organization hasn’t taken an official position on it yet, but that “working conditions are important to our members.” She noted that in some classrooms in the district, those conditions are not up to par for the 21st century.

Little said the Cabrillo and community college bonds should give the district a good temperature of how voters feel about supporting school districts during this recession.

“We’ll be watching all of the election results carefully and seeing if the voters continue to support education in these challenging economic times,” he said.

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