PIEDMONT -- Testimony for and against the proposed school support tax punctuated discussions at the Nov. 14 school board meeting.
Several public meetings have been held to gather community input about the tax, which would bring an estimated $9.5 million per year to the schools. The current tax supports 31 percent of the district's budget, most of which goes for salaries and benefits.
The school board will hold a special public meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday at City Council chambers, 120 Vista Ave. to take a final vote on what will be presented on the March 5 ballot. The parcel tax would need a two-thirds majority to pass. If approved by Piedmont voters, it would go into effect July 1, 2014. Several members of the parcel tax campaign committee spoke, urging passage.
"There is a long legacy of support the past 30 years," said Katie Korotzer, of the campaign committee.
"We've been let down by the state (funding) since 1982," said Doug Ireland. "We need to maintain programs" to keep Piedmont schools at the highest level.
Some in the audience took an opposing stance. Resident Eva Denes blasted the board.
"This is a city of entitlements, it's out of control," Denes said. "Our schools are not lacking for anything. (The parcel tax) covers for mismanagement. There is not going to be a free pass, with a public school trying to act like a private school."
Denes continued, "Leave my taxes alone. This is self-serving and not fair. I'm here to fight (the tax)."
Piedmont homeowners pay some of the highest parcel taxes in the state, averaging $2,700 per parcel. Opponents vowed to ring doorbells and talk to neighbors to reject the tax. Proponents plan to do the same to encourage passage. Jonathan Davis said local solutions are best.
"Our schools are the crown jewel of the town," he said.
Trustee Roy Tolles defended the district's management of its tax dollars, saying, "We are not wasting money. We do a good job."
He said that a 2 percent proposed escalation per year would save two teachers jobs annually. Other speakers weighed in about the duration of the tax, some saying an "evergreen" tax was not desirable. The board's consensus favors an eight-year parcel tax, with a 2 percent escalation per year, an oversight committee and exemption for Supplemental Social Security recipients.
"It is the responsibility of the community to educate our children," board President Rick Raushenbush said.
"A senior exemption would just shift the tax burden to others. People want certainty (that the schools will be able to maintain their programs and teachers)," he said.