Alameda school district officials soon may ask voters to approve a parcel tax as a way to help offset an anticipated $4.5 million shortfall in state money.

Trustees will look at tax options as a way to generate cash when they meet Tuesday night, despite an annual $189 parcel tax already in place that benefits local schools.

Superintendent Ardella Dailey declined to comment on the idea, saying she would rather wait until after the school board reviews the issue.

But she has already put voters on notice that they may be asked to support a tax.

"Our local Board of Education is currently looking at a series of proposed cuts and options for bringing additional funds to the district," Dailey said in a letter mailed to city residents last week. "One option is to ask local voters to approve an emergency parcel tax that would allow us to retain teachers and support staff and preserve essential education programs."

On Thursday, Luz Cazares, the district's chief financial officer, was still working on what she will present to the board regarding a parcel tax and details were not available.

The board could end up calling for a higher tax or one that extends beyond 2012, when the current parcel tax expires. It generates about $3.2 million annually for the district.

Whatever may emerge from the meeting on Tuesday, trustee Tracy Lynn Jensen said she hopes it will offer a steady revenue stream and not a one- time solution.

"That's just going to make the job even more difficult," Jensen said.


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"We can't do things incrementally. We need to have a long-term parcel tax that addresses the needs of our schools. We can't keep going back to the voters every few years."

The new tax likely would come before voters in June. It would need two-thirds approval to pass.

Alameda voters initially passed a $109 parcel tax in 2001. Three years ago, voters approved raising it to the current $189. Senior citizens can apply for an exemption if the property serves as their primary residence.

Earlier this month, Oakland voters passed a permanent $195 parcel tax, that raises $20 million annually for the city's schools.

"It's really a pretty minor amount," Jensen said about Alameda's current tax. "I think most people here believe in public education and they believe in our schools. I also like to think that they will support those schools through a tax."

The current shortfall stems from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposal to cut at least $4 billion in overall education spending as a way to help make up the state budget deficit.

Schwarzenegger also wants to suspend Proposition 98, a constitutional amendment that guarantees K-12 schools and community colleges annual money from the state's general fund.

Along with a parcel tax, Alameda trustees also will hear Tuesday about other recommendations to save money. The recommendations could include lay-offs, ending class-size reduction and closing schools.

Trustees will vote on any cuts on March 4.

Reach Peter Hegarty at phegarty@bayareanewsgroup.com or 510-748-1654.

If you go

The Board of Education will meet at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 2263 Santa Clara Ave.