Boardmembers from the Santa Barbara School District unanimously decided on Friday, June 27, to place two measures on the November ballot that, if approved by local voters, will substantially increase funding to local public and charter schools.
In a 4-0 vote (with boardmember Laura Malakoff absent), the board passed measures 07/08-42 and 07/08-43, the first of which would create a $23 parcel tax in the high school and junior high school district, and the second of which would create a $27 parcel tax for schools in the elementary district. Annually, these taxes would generate an estimated $648,000 in the elementary district and $1,196,000 in the secondary district. According to a proposed revenue worksheet published and unilaterally endorsed by the board at the Friday meeting, the revenues from both parcel taxes will be used to restore and enhance programs at both the elementary and secondary levels. If a taxpayer lives in a region that is both an elementary and secondary school district, he or she will have to pay both taxes. All senior citizens who live in the school district, however, will have the option to apply for exemption from the tax, the resolution noted, since many live on fixed incomes.
If the electorate passes the measures in the upcoming November election, revenues from the high school district parcel tax will help math and science technology and education and to restore funding to music, arts, foreign language, and theater programs. If the elementary district tax is approved, the revenues would-in addition to being used for math, science, and technology instruction-help fund the addition of six full-time teachers to the district’s primary school music programs. “We’ve seen programs grow smaller or disappear because of fewer funds,” explained Boardmember Nancy Harter. “This is an opportunity to try and create funding for those that have suffered.”
The funding, however, will be flexible. If the district obtains additional funding for computer technology, for example, money earmarked for that cause could be diverted elsewhere.
According to the proposed full text of each bill, an independent citizen’s oversight committee will be created to monitor the revenues and expenditures of each individual parcel tax fund during the next four years. In addition, both of the board’s written resolutions explicitly specify that none of the monies raised from either parcel tax may be used for administrative or teacher salaries.
Aside from oversight, one of the more unusual traits of these measures is that the funds that might be raised through them would be shared with area charter schools. School Board Vice President Kate Parker, who voted on the measure, noted that this decision was an uncommon move for a public school board. “Throughout the state, charter schools normally do not receive parcel tax funding,” Parker said. The City of Santa Barbara currently has three charter schools under its jurisdiction.
Eva Neuer, principal of Cesar Estrada Ch¡vez Dual Language Immersion Charter School on Yanonali Street, echoed Parker’s statements, and, in the public comment period of the meeting, thanked the board for its inclusion of Santa Barbara’s charter schools in the funding. “Charter schools are facing the same financial crisis as other schools in the area,” Neuer said.
Joe Armendariz, executive director of the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association, explained that his organization has not yet taken a stand on these measures, though he noted that money going into school programs would benefit students and, eventually, Santa Barbara at large. “Any opportunity we have to fund vital programs in the liberal arts is an investment,” he said. However, he also predicted that the number of tax measures on the ballot might be problematic. “They might just vote ‘no’ across the board,” he said of voters faced with the multitude of tax measures on the November ballot.