Parents fighting for Millbrae parcel tax

Julie Turner, like most Millbrae parents, said she figured last May’s parcel tax measure for the city’s cash-strapped school district was a lock to pass.

Turner and other parents did not talk to voters, man phone banks or pass out fliers, assuming the community would support the measure. The city’s 11,500 voters, however, cast about 4,200 ballots and the measure failed by two percent. The district has since added to its budget cuts — now totaling $1.8 million during the past five years.

“I honestly thought that it was kind of a no-brainer, and when it didn’t pass I was absolutely shocked,” Turner said.

A second parcel tax slated for the June 3 ballot might not pass, either, but it certainly will not fail due to parents sitting on their hands. A fundraising group has formed and about 80 parents and rising are pounding the pavement to get the word out about the election.

“Unlike last year I think parents are more engaged,” said resident Rich Reimer, a member of the group.

The organization is called the Friends of Excellent Millbrae Schools and is the sort of civically engaged group rarely seen in the small town of Millbrae.

“They’re a nonpolitical machine,” Mayor Gina Papan said. “They know what’s at stake here.”

What’s at stake is anywhere from $400,000 to $492,000 the district would earn from the $78-per-parcel tax. The districthas already slashed 12 percent of its budget and will likely cut at least another $200,000 next year because of state financial shortfalls.

Group co-chair Svetlana Vaksberg has experienced the cuts’ impact in the classroom first hand. Her first-grade son at Green Hills Elementary School had to deal with the layoff of his classroom’s instructional aid.

The parents have already been flooding Millbrae telephone lines with calls, passing out countless fliers in front of Safeway and Trader Joes and meeting with various community groups.

The group has raised two-thirds of its $30,000 goal and the parents, Vaksberg said, are not taking a “no” vote for an answer this time around.

mrosenberg@examiner.com

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