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Brisbane school district programs face budgetary ax

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As Maureen Boland busily oversees the clamor of Lipman Middle School’s final dress rehearsal of its annual theater production, one troubling thing lingers in the back of her mind. 

Amid district budgetary woes, this may be the school’s final musical.

Residents will vote Tuesday on whether or not to inflate the Brisbane Elementary School District’s current annual $96 parcel tax to $119 to pay the salaries of the district’s art and music teachers along with reading support and classroom aid.

If the measure fails, it may draw the curtain on the district’s art and music ­electives. 

“If it doesn’t pass, we won’t be able to have these plays in the future,” said Boland, a language arts teacher and the play’s director. 

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There are about 106 students participating in the musical. Art teacher Ilana Caplan manages the 31 students working on set design, and music teacher Rob Johnson directs the 30-student chorus.

“We’re both feeling optimistic,” Caplan said, adding that art and music programs are usually the first to go when districts face budget issues. “We have a great community in Brisbane that supports art and music.”

The parcel tax was introduced in 1999 and reapproved in 2005, both times by a two-thirds majority. The tax expires this year, and to continue, Measure W needs another two-thirds majority approval from voters.

At the school board meeting on Jan. 23, the board approved reductions to next year’s budget. Toni Presta, the district’s superintendent, anticipates about a $500,000 reduction.

Though Presta is hopeful the measure will pass, she has concerns.

“With this economic landscape, we just don’t know,” she said.

Noah Borrero, assistant professor of education at USF, said while arts programs often have a more difficult time retaining funding in tough economic times, “the need to have creative opportunities in school is imperative.”

If the tax is not approved, the elimination of the district’s music and art classes is “pretty definite,” Presta said. The district could keep the arts program running for about another year with leftover money in the parcel tax fund, but not after that, she said.

aterrazas@sfexaminer.com

Parcel tax breakdown

Brisbane has 3,180 parcels.

$96: Current tax per parcel 
$305,280: Brisbane Elementary School District’s annual revenue from tax
$119: Proposed tax per parcel (to be voted on Tuesday)
$378,420: Annual revenue if parcel tax measure passes

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