Ballots mailed out for CUSD parcel tax

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Zoe Morgan/Town Crier
Ballots have been sent out for the Cupertino Union School District's parcel tax.

Ballots have been mailed for the Cupertino Union School District’s Measure A parcel-tax proposal, and residents have until May 4 to send in their vote.

If approved, Measure A would levy a $398 yearly tax on each parcel of land within the school district’s boundaries, replacing an existing $250 parcel tax. The new measure would last for eight years and is expected to raise approximately $14 million annually. It requires two-thirds support to pass.

CUSD spans six cities, including parts of south Los Altos. In recent years, the district has faced repeated budget cuts and last fall considered permanently closing multiple schools.

Supporters of the parcel tax say it’s needed to address the district’s budget challenges and will provide a stable source of funding. Opponents argue the cost is too high and point to the fact that voters rejected a smaller parcel tax measure last year.

Dan Halabe, chairperson of the campaign committee backing Measure A, urged residents to support local schools by voting for the measure.

“I think the public schools enrich our community, and as citizens it’s our obligation to invest in the schools,” said Halabe, a Los Altos resident whose two children attended Montclaire Elementary School.

Measure A is more expensive than previous parcel-tax proposals, which Halabe said is because it’s the first one truly sized to account for the district’s financial need. CUSD receives less money in per-pupil funding than many neighboring districts and has seen declining enrollment in recent years.

District board members have said they won’t close schools for budget reasons if the parcel tax passes, but they haven’t ruled out school closures due to low enrollment. According to Halabe, the parcel tax would give the district more lead time to carefully make any decisions.

Those opposing the parcel tax question whether it would actually solve the district’s financial problems, and point out that schools may still close. Valentin Ryabov, a Montclaire parent who is one of the signors of the argument against the measure in the voters’ pamphlet, objected to the district placing another parcel-tax measure on the ballot after voters rejected the $125 Measure O parcel tax in March 2020.

“Last year the voters, finally, quite clearly said, ‘No, we’re not having this anymore,’” said Ryabov, a Los Altos resident who is also involved in an effort to recall a CUSD board member. “And what does CUSD do? They just put another measure on the ballot a year later for even more money.”

He also objected to the cost of placing the parcel-tax proposal on the ballot. When the board voted unanimously in January to put the tax before voters, they acknowledged that the estimated cost was approximately $1 million. However, the board members decided to move forward, noting that they wanted to give the community one more chance to support a parcel tax, after parent outcry over the potential for school closures.

The cost of an election is generally split among the various items on the ballot, but Measure A is the only item up for a vote May 4 in Santa Clara County.

Election logistics

The election is being conducted fully by mail, with ballots sent out last week. Voters may mail back their completed ballot or return it at various official drop boxes, including one at Los Altos City Hall, 1 N. San Antonio Road. Ballots also may be cast in person at the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters’ office.

To be counted, ballots must be returned by 8 p.m. May 4 or postmarked on or before May 4 and received no more than three days later.

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