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LASD seeks to renew parcel tax with $30 increase

In an effort to maintain current programs, Los Altos School District officials have placed a parcel-tax renewal – Measure GG – on the Nov. 8 ballot.

The district’s current $193 parcel tax is set to expire in the 2017-2018 school year. The new measure seeks to increase the tax by $30 and extend the parcel-tax collection period for eight years. The district also collects an additional $597 ongoing parcel tax.

Measure GG requires support from two-thirds of voters to pass and includes a senior exemption for residents 65 and older.

District officials are lobbying for the parcel-tax increase to enable the district to share funds with Bullis Charter School for its in-district students attending the charter school, without affecting the district’s program funding.

If approved, the tax would add $2.8 million annually to the district’s coffers, with approximately $300,000 directed toward in-district charter school students.

Replacing lost funds

The original $193 parcel tax passed in 2011 during an economic downturn, mitigating the impact of a decrease in state funding. District Superintendent Jeff Baier said the state has yet to restore the funding, so the tax is still necessary for district operations.

“During the recession, the state of California made the decision to completely overhaul how they fund schools,” Baier said. “We lost funding that we know is not going to come back.”

Because the state is focused on supporting lower-income school districts, the Los Altos School District must focus on generating funding locally, according to Baier.

“What has been this temporary stopgap has become something we rely on and need to continue to support our strong academic programs,” said Shali Sirkay, Measure GG campaign co-chairwoman.

Los Altos School District parcel-tax funds support maintaining a strong core program; retaining and attracting high-quality teachers; expanding Science, Technology, Engineering and Math curriculum; and keeping schools safe, clean and in good repair, the ballot language states.

“This is about maintaining the excellence that our schools provide and ensuring that we can do that in the future,” Baier said. “We want to continue to have a level of excellence that our community expects.”

If the parcel tax fails, the district would have a $2.5 million budget shortfall – a gap parents, who already fundraise for the district through PTAs and the Los Altos Educational Foundation, would be hard-pressed to make up, Sirkay said.

The ballot language states that parcel-tax funds would support academic programs and not administrative salaries. The district currently spends 83 percent of its revenue on instruction through teacher salaries and pupil and professional support.

Officials from both the school district and the charter school signed the ballot arguments in favor of Measure GG. Sirkay said representatives from all schools, including the charter school, are actively campaigning to ensure that Measure GG passes.

“I think this parcel tax is a very concrete and positive way to take a huge step toward community healing,” she said.

Measure GG parcel-tax funds are separate from Measure N bond funds, passed two years ago. Measure N funds specifically address facilities, while parcel taxes support program funding.

There is no organized campaign against Measure GG, though the Silicon Valley Taxpayers Association filed an argument against the measure signed by the association president and Mountain View City Councilman John Inks.

For more information on the yes on Measure GG campaign, visit excellentlosaltosschools.org.

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