Troubled Brisbane elementary district pursues tax renewal

The budding thespians at Lipman Middle School were hard at work last week practicing for this year’s musical, “My Fair Lady.”

Meanwhile, voters are about to start receiving mail-in ballots for a March 8 parcel tax election that could decide the fate of two teachers who help put on the play, along with other music and arts programs, in the 600-student Brisbane School District.

“It’s a very modest curriculum — it only funds one art teacher and one music teacher,” said school board President Ken Walker, “but we feel it’s sill important that the kids have some exposure in the schools to those things.”

Measure W would raise the district’s existing $96-per-year parcel tax, which funds the music and art teachers plus reading support programs, to $119 per year and extend it until 2016. The tax initially passed in 1999 by the slimmest margin — exactly two-thirds — and was renewed by voters in 2005.

Superintendent Toni Presta said the three-school district, which encompasses Brisbane and pockets of Daly City and South San Francisco, may be able to preserve music and art for one more year without the parcel tax, but no longer than that.

Administrators project a $1 million budget gap in the district’s $7 million budget, which officials say will likely mean staff layoffs and possibly closing a school. Parents are concerned about those cuts, but Walker said the board also feels it is important to keep the arts alive.

“We’re going to take the measures we need to maintain our district, and we just feel art and music is an important part of that district,” Walker said. “We acknowledge there is a bigger budget issue we’ve got to deal with, and we need to do both.”

Senior citizens can apply for an exemption to the tax, which Presta said brings in roughly $300,000 per year for the district.

Supporters say getting the two-thirds majority needed to pass a parcel tax is always a challenge, but they are hoping to garner enough support when voters go to the polls March 8.

“We want to make sure we keep what we’ve got,” Presta said.


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