Friday, January 21, 2011

Parcel Taxes Stay and Grow - local examples

School District parcel taxes follow a pattern where once approved, never go away. The revenue becomes locked into the spending structure, usually for salaries and benefits which comprise over 80% of school district budgets. To remove the parcel tax would cause the same outcry as state reductions in revenues. When state revenue is reduced as in the last few years, districts must act to add more parcel tax revenues (instead of controlling expenses). Here are several local examples.

Alameda Unified School District (AUSD)

AUSD placed Measure A on a March 8, 2011 ballot. This seven year parcel tax is designed to raise $12 million per year. It will replace two existing parcel taxes that raise a currently combined $7.3 million per year and expire in 2012. This is a 64% increase in taxes.

The two existing parcel taxes were approved in 2005 for $3.0 million and 2008 for $4.3 million. These taxes provide 11% of AUSD revenue, and would climb to 18% with the new parcel tax. This in spite of a 7% decline in student enrollment since 2008.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Jerry Brown's Budget and its Effect on K-12 Education

It's been a week since Governor Jerry Brown released his proposed budget for California. For analysis on the effect on K-12 education see the Association of California School Administrators, School Services of California, and the Silicon Valley Education Foundation. For the next several weeks, this post will be updated with new analysis as it becomes available.

The big question is whether CA voters will extend the temporary tax increases imposed in 2009. Voters already said 'no' to the additional two year extension proposal in 2009, and it is not certain by any means voters want a five year extension.

Governor Brown declines to say what additional cuts to the budget would occur if the $9 billion in annual tax revenues are not approved. Estimates for the impact to Education range from $2 to $4 billion. This political posturing immediately enjoins public education unions and organizations to carry Jerry Brown's water for the June special election. SacBee columnist Dan Walters calls the California Teacher's Association "The elephant in the budget room."

Locally, PUSD reports the CA budget proposal maintains this year's funding (removing the fear of a mid-year cut) and extends categorical and CSR flexibilities for two more years giving PUSD additional options for expense control. If the attempt to raise/extend the state taxes in June fails, Assistant Superintendent Luz Cazares roughly estimates the impact to be $5.6 million. PUSD has many unused options/tools available to continue to control and reduce expenses.

Not surprisingly, teachers union president Trevor Knaggs ended his remarks at the January 11th PUSD school board meeting with a plea for everyone to vote for the state tax increases.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Governor Brown, CTA and the CA Board of Education

Governor Brown's appointees to the CA Board of Education are being viewed as influenced by the teachers unions according to this LATimes article :

"CTA president David Sanchez said the union was thrilled by the new appointees because he believed the board had been stacked with too many members connected to charters, which are mostly nonunion.

He said that although there was no quid pro quo, "we did work our butts off with getting the word out" about Brown's candidacy, adding that he had told Brown of his concerns about the board numerous times. Sanchez also said that if Brown proposes June ballot measures to help fund schools, "we're going to invest time and money in it."

Critics say the string of appointees was more than payback for the union's support during the election, it was an effort to keep them and their coffers in Brown's corner. "

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Here Come the Carrots and the Sticks

The astute political observer watches how debates are framed. Governor Brown insiders are explaining how he will use the threat of "drastic cuts" to education to "galvanize powerful education support for tax hikes in a June special election."

California Schools Chief Tom Torlakson has "declared a state of financial emergency" in the schools while admitting his options for addressing this problem are limited. He urges Californians to support "an extension of current tax levels now set to expire, to prevent another round of devastating cuts to schools."

Framing a debate ignores other options including the concept of "permanent reset." Dan Walters says:
"Brown's greatest barrier may be his fellow Democrats in the Legislature, who have very close political ties to the groups - such as public employee unions - that would be most opposed to any deep spending cuts, especially if it meant a permanent reset. They will want temporary cuts at most, hoping that an eventual uptick in the economy would close the income-outgo gap. But unless the spending cuts are credible, it will be very difficult, perhaps impossible, to persuade voters to raise taxes..."
Talking points and political rhetoric flow freely in the education circle. As PUSD prepares the school board to approve a parcel tax election, how many carrots and sticks will be used at the local level?

Or, just maybe, PUSD might explore the complete range of serious fiscal solutions, "permanent resets" and other options to gain credibility with the voters.