Cupertino Union School District officials are counting on voters Tuesday to extend a parcel tax that will help keep a lid on class sizes and cover campus maintenance, libraries and other programs.
The district is seeking approval to continue assessing each parcel owned within the district $250 annually for eight years. Measure A would continue the combined assessment of two existing parcel taxes.
Voting is by mail only; no neighborhood polls will be open. The measure needs a two-thirds majority to pass.
The two existing parcel taxes, approved by voters in 2009 and 2011, generate $8.8 million, about 6 percent of the district's general-fund budget, said Rick Hausman, the district's chief business officer.
Earlier this year, the school board changed the terms of one of the current parcel taxes. If Measure A passes, both existing taxes will expire in June 2015 and Measure A would kick in. If the measure fails, one of the existing parcel taxes will expire in June 2015 and the other will continue until June 2017. The district would then lose $4.4 million annually.
Cupertino Union serves about 19,000 in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade in parts of Cupertino, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, Los Altos, San Jose and Saratoga.
"We're just asking for people to continue what they're paying," said Cupertino board member Josephine Lucey. Combining the two current parcel taxes and seeking one extension, she said, "was appropriate and efficient."
There is no organized opposition to Measure A.
While the two-thirds threshold is challenging to meet, district voters gave solid victories to the 2009 and 2011 tax measures, with both winning about 70 percent of the vote.
But political and fiscal changes may have reshaped voters' thinking. First, the budget wolf is no longer at California's door. Second, passage of Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown's statewide quarter-cent sales tax measure in 2012 may lead voters to think schools are adequately funded. And Brown's new funding formula also has awarded many districts more funds.
Public opinion polls indicate that voters believe schools need less financial help. A poll released last week showed that the proportion of those who say the state budget is a big problem for public education declined 10 points in two years, to 62 percent. And the portion of likely voters who view state funding for their schools as inadequate also dropped by 10 points, to 49 percent.
Hausman said that Cupertino schools do not benefit as much as other districts from the new formula, which grants more funds for poor and English-learning children -- who are only a small proportion in Cupertino schools. While the state has more money for schools, he said, "a substantial portion is not coming to us."
The district still hasn't recovered to pre-recession levels, and under current state funding plans, he said, it will take seven years for Cupertino Union to reach the budget level of 2007-08. The district's parcel taxes enabled it to cushion the blow of the recession and to rescind layoff notices for dozens of teachers.
Parent Dan Halabe said Proposition 30 isn't a complete solution, noting his son's fifth-grade class has 30 students -- larger than in some other districts. "It slowly restores us from the hole that was dug in 2008." And that level was not adequate, parents and educators say.
He supports the tax measure because, "I want to live in a place with strong schools."
In Cupertino, as in many districts, parents make up only about 20 percent of registered voters. Campaigners are highlighting benefits a parcel tax would offer families without K-8 children -- that parcel taxes go only to local schools, property owners 65 and older may get an exemption and better schools raise property values.
What happens if Measure A doesn't get a two-thirds vote? "I don't want to contemplate it," Hausman said. "Failure is not an option."
Contact Sharon Noguchi at 408-271-3775. Follow her at Twitter.com/NoguchiOnK12.
Measure A ballots have been mailed to registered voters in the Cupertino Union School District and must be received by 8 p.m. Tuesday. Voters may vote in person or turn in ballots at the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters, 1555 Berger Drive, Building 2, San Jose.
Ballots also are being accepted during normal business hours at city halls in Cupertino, Los Altos, San Jose, Saratoga, Santa Clara and Sunnyvale.
On Saturday only, a drive-through site accepting ballots will be open at Cupertino City Hall, 10300 Torre Ave.