Mtn. View voters face parcel-tax decision

Nearly $3 million in funding is on the line for the Mountain View Whisman School District May 2 as district residents vote on whether to continue an expiring parcel tax.

If approved, Measure B would maintain current levels of school funding while raising the average homeowner’s tax by $64 .

Parcel-tax funds pay for district libraries, art, music and teacher compensation, as well as experiential programs such as an eighth-grade field trip to Yosemite and fifth-grade environmental education. An independent oversight committee monitors disbursement of the funds.

The existing tax, approved by more than 80 percent of voters in 2008, expires at the end of June.

The stakes for Measure B are high – without a new parcel tax, according to district Board of Trustees President Jose Gutierrez Jr., the district will be “in a tight spot.”

“If it doesn’t pass, there will be layoffs – it affects the programs,” Gutierrez said. “There is no second chance. We need all the support we can get from the community.”

Opposition to the measure, led by retired trustee Steven Nelson, has focused on the change from previous years’ variable parcel taxes, which assessed higher fees for greater square footage. Measure B will collect $2.8 million annually via a flat tax of $191 per parcel, shifting more of the cost to owners of smaller properties – notably, from commercial property owners to individual homeowners. Nelson, who had opposed previous efforts to introduce a flat parcel tax during his tenure on the board of trustees, could not be reached for comment.

Superintendent Ayinde Rudolph said the board’s decision to put a uniform $191 tax on the ballot reflected concerns about potential legal challenges.

“We know that the districts that have tried (a variable parcel tax) are currently under lawsuit,” said Rudolph, citing the protracted legal battle over a similar measure in the Alameda Unified School District. “We want to make sure that we conform with the law and that we avoid any further litigation.”

Seniors and low-income homeowners with disabilities are eligible for exemptions to the parcel tax under Measure B. The tax would last for eight years.

Measure B appears on an all-mail ballot for Tuesday’s special election. Ballots can be returned via mail or to drop-off sites at Mountain View City Hall, 500 Castro St., or the Mountain View Public Library, 585 Franklin St.

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