Millbrae education parcel tax bound for June ballot

Property owners in the city will decide in June whether to approve a $78 parcel tax to add money to a school district that has been doing a lot of subtracting.

The Millbrae Elementary School District’s board voted unanimously Wednesday to approve the residential parcel tax for the June 3 ballot. The district had cut $1.8 million — or 12 percent of its budget — in the last five years and is facing future financial difficulties, Superintendent Shirley Martin said.

If approved, the tax would bring the district a maximum of $492,000, or as little as $400,000 if all city residents 65 or older exercise their exemption rights and decline to pay the tax, over a five-year period, according to the district.

“[That money] is desperately needed,” board trustee Frank Barbaro said. “It would bring back the cuts we have made in the last five years.”

If the tax does not pass, the district will likely face further budget cuts, Martin said. About $200,000 from general operations would likely be cut next school year and more funds would likely be lost the following year, she said.

Passing the tax will be far from a sure thing.

The district already failed to pass a $78 parcel tax in May, when it received 64.4 percent of the two-thirds vote needed to pass. A recent community survey indicated that 73 percent of respondents were in favor of the $78 tax, even though the overwhelming majority of those respondents were parents. Of the city’s 22,000 residents, there are 2,100 students in the district.

The district will likely spend between $25,000 and $30,000 to place the tax on the ballot.

The money from the tax would be used to restore previous cuts to programs such as music, library and technology. It also could be used to offset state budget cuts and protect teachers from layoffs.

“There’s not enough emphasis put on how serious these cuts are,” said Doreen Dennehy, Spring Valley Elementary PTA vice president.

Millbrae is just one of several districts around San Mateo County that will or may ask residents to pay for a parcel tax. The Pacifica School District approved a parcel tax measure last week and the San Bruno Park School District will discuss one next week. Jefferson Elementary and San Carlos school districts have also had talks of new parcel taxes.

mrosenberg@examiner.com

Millbrae parcel tax by the numbers

» $78: Likely annual tax

» $492,648: Maximum district would earn annually from tax

» $400,000: Minimum district would earn annually from tax

» Five: Likely number of years the tax would last

» June 3: Date of election

» Two-thirds: Vote needed to pass

» 64.4: Percent of voters who approved May 2007 failed parcel tax

» 6,316: Parcels in Millbrae subject to the tax, including exempt seniors

» $25,000-$30,000: Cost to put tax on ballot

» $1.8 million: Money cut from district in last five years

Source: Millbrae Elementary School District

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