Schools

FUHSD asks voters for parcel-tax extension

The Fremont Union High School District is looking to voters to extend its existing parcel tax, which raises roughly $5 million annually, for eight more years.

The district’s board of trustees placed Measure M on the November ballot, which would renew an existing tax of $98 per parcel of land within the district’s boundaries. The measure requires a two-thirds vote to pass.

FUHSD includes Homestead High School, which draws students from Los Altos.

The money from the parcel tax is used to support academic programs, prepare students for college and careers, and retain teachers and staff, board president Jeff Moe said.

“It’s important funding for our schools, and we want to make sure our school district remains competitive in our area,” Moe said.

The parcel tax proceeds go into the district’s general fund, rather than being earmarked for particular uses. The district’s total annual budget is $176 million.

“If we didn’t have it, we’d be $5 million short and we’d have to figure out how to cut $5 million,” Superintendent Polly Bove said.

Voters originally approved the tax in 2004, when the district was facing tough financial times. The revenue enabled the district to restore employee pay cuts. It was successfully renewed in 2010 and 2014.

Exemptions from paying the tax are available for seniors and those with disabilities. If voters approve Measure M, it will take effect when the existing tax expires in 2022 and run for eight years.

The district conducted polling last year to gauge voter support for a potential parcel-tax measure. The prospect of increasing the parcel-tax amount from $98 to $148 or $173 failed to garner the needed two-thirds support. When respondents were then asked about a renewal without any increase, 78% were in favor, more than 10 percentage points above the threshold to pass. The district opted to go with a straight renewal.

Counterargument

The measure is opposed by the Silicon Valley Taxpayers Association, which is against all but one of the tax measures on the ballot in Santa Clara County.

Association president Mark Hinkle questioned the need to extend the tax during a time when schools are operating remotely and some families are choosing to opt out and home-school their kids, which he said should lead to reduced expenses.

On the flip side, Bove said the district hasn’t seen much of a drop in students, and the pandemic may prompt a decline in property-tax revenue.

Hinkle added that with the spike in unemployment the coronavirus pandemic has caused, it is “mean-spirited” to try to extend the tax.

“Everybody’s tightening their belt right now,” he said. “School districts, just like everybody else, should tighten their belt.”

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