Thu10302014

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Voters face FHDA parcel tax

Photo Town Crier File Photo Foothill College students have experienced reduced class sections due to state budget cuts. The Foothill-De Anza Community College District has placed a parcel tax on the November ballot to help mitigate cuts at the community colleges.

The Foothill De Anza Community College District has included a parcel-tax measure on the Nov. 2 General Election ballot.

Local voters will decide whether Measure E, a $69-per-parcel tax that would provide funding for local community college courses and programs, will be implemented. A parcel tax requires 66.7 percent voter approval for passage.

Faced with state funding reductions of more than $20 million over the past two years, Foothill and De Anza colleges have had to cut course offerings and eliminate hundreds of full- and part-time faculty and staff positions.

At the same time, student demands for community college courses is increasing. After recent state budget cuts, there are not enough classes to provide local students with the job training and transfer credits they seek, according to district officials. In 2009-2010, thousands of students were unable to register for the classes they needed.

“I think we can agree that if it were not for the economic crisis in the state, we wouldn’t be coming back to the voters,” said Foothill College President Judy Miner. “It is precisely at this time that we need to be there in order to provide education for those who have lost work and want to get into the work force. We are part of the solution.

The parcel tax, valid for six years, would raise approximately $7 million to offset the cuts in state funding. By law, every dollar must stay locally to benefit Foothill and De Anza colleges. No funds could be appropriated by the state or used for administrator salaries or benefits. A citizens’ oversight committee and annual audits of the expenditures are mandatory.

Chancellor Linda M. Thor said the district obtains 98 percent of its funds from the state. The past two years, when the state cut the budget, it also reduced the district’s enrollment cap (the number of full-time students the colleges can enroll), meaning the district had to cut 500 class sections.

“When people are unemployed, they go back to school,” Thor said. “When they are afraid they are going to lose their jobs, they start updating their skills. We have returning veterans and the largest high school graduating classes in history. We have tremendous demands.”

Foothill-De Anza officials said the parcel tax would be used to maintain core academics; increase the number of lab classes; prepare students for careers in math, science, engineering and technology; improve support services; and keep libraries open.

“Should the parcel tax fail, what we offer today would be a best-case scenario,” Thor said. “We are bracing for more cuts.”

The local funding proposal will appear on the ballot as the Foothill-De Anza Educational Opportunity and Job Training Measure.

For more information, visit www.fhda.edu.

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