Deciding now what programs should get money would not give the public enough time to offer input, according to Superintendent Ardella Dailey.
Trustee Bill Schaff agreed with her, but Tracy Lynn Jensen tried to get the board to take action. She could not muster enough votes, however.
High school athletic directors Brad Thomas and Kevin Gorham -- whose entire programs were initially on the chopping block -- had pushed trustees to act, saying an early commitment to restore money for sports could help rally voters.
The ballot measure will require a two-thirds majority to pass.
It calls for a tax of $120 per residential parcel and a 15-cent per square foot tax on business and industrial parcels, or a $120 minimum and a $9,500 maximum on commercial and industrial parcels.
The tax would end after four years.
It could be a hard sell, however, because the tax would be on top of the $189 annually that homeowners already pay for local schools.
Trustees decided to put the tax on the ballot earlier this month to help offset a projected $4.5 million shortfall in state money -- a budget gap that also prompted trustees to cut $265,000 from high school sports and the district's two swimming centers.
The belt-tightening also included eliminating music instruction for first through third graders, cutting back on middle school counselors, and ending class-size reduction for high school freshmen.
About $200,000 will be saved from the loss of the music program, according to Chief Financial Officer Luz Cazares, who briefed the board Tuesday on the budget.
While the board took no action, Dailey still offered trustees a priority list on what programs should get money if the tax passes. Sports and music were among the top items, while restoring class-size reduction and boosting the number of counselors was given slightly less priority.
The list will come back before the board April 8.
Meanwhile, the Alameda Education Foundation will host a rally from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at Longfellow Elementary School as a way to promote the tax.
The idea is to get people to put up lawn signs and help gather voter support.
Alameda voters initially passed a $109 parcel tax in 2001. Three years ago, voters approved raising it to $189.
The current tax is set to expire in 2012, when the new emergency tax would also end.
The Alameda school district is one of many districts throughout California facing a budget crunch in the wake of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposal to slash about $4 billion in overall education spending as a way to help balance the state's books.
Reach Peter Hegarty at email@example.com or 510-748-1654.