San Carlos parents fight to keep school district funding

Well before a measure seeking to extend a San Carlos School District parcel tax is placed on the ballot, parents are gearing up for a campaign to ensure the schools don’t lose the $1 million-per-year funding source.

“From a community standpoint, our schools are an amazing asset and deserve the support from this community,” said Adam Alberti, co-chair of the Citizens for San Carlos Schools Committee and a parent of a second-grader and a fourth-grader. “Based on what’s going on at the state, the only way we can really have a steady impact on our schools is at the local level.”

Alberti is among the parents urging district trustees to seek an extension of the $110-per-year Measure D parcel tax, which passed in 2003 and will sunset in June. The board is expected to vote next month on hiring a polling firm to gauge community support for a potential tax, which would need a two-thirds vote to pass.

While the school board hasn’t yet made a decision, officials suggest that letting the parcel tax expire — and losing the $1 million in revenue it brings in — is not a palatable option after the district just finished cutting $3 million of the current school year’s $23 million budget.

“Right now, I can’t foresee a scenario in which the board would feel comfortable losing $1 million a year for the schools,” said Superintendent Craig Baker. “It would not be good for this community or for our children.”

Parent organizers have their eyes on a May election date and figure they’ll need around $80,000 to run a campaign to extend the 2003 tax, said Alberti, an executive vice president at the San Francisco PR firm Singer Associates.

Alberti said parents have already started lining up campaign donors. “Based on the two-thirds requirement, we will be waging a very active campaign, and we expect we’ll get the two-thirds, but it’s a tough task.”

Board President Mark Olbert said it’s likely trustees will wait as long as they can to make a decision, likely sometime in January, to ensure they have plenty of information about what voters are thinking.

He noted that while voters narrowly shot down a parcel tax on the November 2008 ballot, in May 2009 they approved Measure B, a $78-per-year parcel tax that will expire in 2015.

The board could also opt to let the 2003 tax expire and pursue a new tax, though Baker said extending the tax is probably the most viable option, “given that the community is already paying that right now.”

For a good cause

Numbers behind the San Carlos School District:

3,200: Students
K-8: Grades
4: Elementary schools
2: Middle schools
1: K-8 charter school
$23 million: Budget
69: Percent of budget from state funding

sbishop@sfexaminer.com

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