Brisbane schools pushing parcel tax 

A $500,000 budget deficit may force the Brisbane Elementary School District to lay off nearly one-third of its teachers this year, unless voters approve a $156 annual parcel tax in a special election Tuesday, school board members said.

“What we keep saying, over and over, is it’s to save our teachers and save our schools,” said Ken Walker, president of the school board for the 550-student district in San Mateo County, which has a total operating budget of about $6 million.

The tax, which would take effect in July and expire in 2018, would bridge the deficit and cover teacher salaries, technology, libraries and other educational programs. It could not be used for administrative expenses. Homeowners 65 and older would be allowed to opt out of the tax, which must be approved by two-thirds of voters.

“We’ve already done a lot to shave expenses,” Walker said, noting that Brisbane is sharing a superintendent and business office with the neighboring Bayshore Elementary School District. The districts, which are both small and both financially strained, are considering a merger to save money.

School board member Bob Dettmer called the district’s situation a crisis, but he said the board was optimistic that voters would support the tax. Teachers and parents have been knocking on doors and calling voters to drum up support, he said.

“The response from voters has been overwhelmingly good,” he said. “I’ve done a lot of canvassing myself, and I can count on one hand the number of people who’ve said no.”

Brisbane voters first supported a parcel tax in 1999. The $119 per parcel levy was reauthorized in March 2011 and will expire in 2016. The $300,000 it brings in covers art and music teachers, as well as reading instructors.

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