Voters handily approved a $124 increase to the Orinda Union School District's parcel tax Tuesday.

With all precincts counted, more than 70 percent of the 7,133 ballots tallied supported increasing the $385 tax to $509. The final vote was 5,032 in favor and 2,101 against. The measure needed a two-thirds majority to pass.

Mail-in ballots, which were cast before Tuesday's election and were the first to be tallied, accounted for more than 45 percent of the city's registered voters and favored the tax by the same 70 percent margin.

The tax never expires. An exemption is available for seniors who earn less than 50 percent of the county's median income — about $30,000 for a single person or $43,000 for a family of four.

Without the parcel tax, the district expects a budget deficit of about $1 million because of state budget cuts.

Passage of the measure would likely save many programs on a list of potential cuts the school board approved in February. But some cuts may still be necessary, depending on donations to the district.

On the list, the first employees to go would be custodians, librarians, summer intervention school and the staff of the nature area at Wagner Ranch Elementary School.

Organizers of the "yes" campaign coordinated an army of about 80 volunteers Tuesday from their headquarters, a downtown storefront that used to house a cafe.

Lists of volunteers and phone bank schedules lined the walls, side-by-side with oversized precinct maps and tally marks counting new supporters.


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Around the city those volunteers made phone calls and knocked on doors of supporters.

Two of those volunteers, Janice Neff and Denise Gant, stopped by the polling place at Our Savior's Lutheran Church midafternoon to swap materials and check the list of who had voted. Volunteers checked the lists at each polling place several times Tuesday to focus their efforts on supporters who had not yet been to the polls.

Neff said she hoped the bad weather — rain and hail — would keep tax opponents away. They might not be as committed to voting, she said, as supporters with children in school.

That matched what Grant had seen.

"I've seen a lot of moms come through here," she said.

One such mom, Amy Campbell, said her family moved to Orinda from Oakland four and a half years ago because of the school district.

Her son, Griffin Brown, will start kindergarten next year, she said.

"I want to protect the schools," Campbell said. "I just have a concern about all the things we could possibly lose."

Reach Paul Thissen at 925-943-8163 or pthissen@bayareanewsgroup.com.