By KERRY BENEFIELD
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Santa Rosa City Schools took a first step Wednesday toward putting a tax measure before voters in November.
While stopping short of agreeing to pay for a consultant to poll voters, the school board asked for more information on how a survey would be conducted and how to proceed with defining what the district would do with more money from a bond measure or parcel tax.
“We don’t need to start by saying, ‘We need money,’” said Bill Carle, board vice president. “We need to start by setting up priorities. What is it that we want for our district? What in the way of programs? In the way of buildings? In the way of technology? In the way of curriculum? In the way of staff?”
“We need a list of things we want; you can’t just go out and poll,” he said.
Trustee Donna Jeye said time is of the essence.
“There is a sense of urgency here that I am very worried about,” she said.
Jeye and others pushed to include a parcel tax along with a bond measure in any study.
Bonds can only be used for buildings and other capital improvements that can include technology and solar installations, and need 55 percent of voters to give approval. Parcel taxes can be used for teachers, programs and supplies but require a two-thirds vote.
“A wide variety of arts and music electives — these are all things that are near and dear to our students and their parents, so I think they would be widely supported,” Jeye said. “Our facilities are in absolutely beautiful condition. It’s what we are doing inside those facilities that is at risk.”
Board members expressed some concern that the tax push was getting under way too late to be successful in November and that any local effort might end up clashing with Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed tax initiative that would provide $7 billion in K-12 funding.
School districts across California have been advised to create a budget for the 2012-12 school year assuming the statewide tax initiative fails.
In Santa Rosa, that means cutting $8.3 million for the upcoming school year.
“We must build our (2012-13) school year budget with the anticipation of a $370 per (pupil) cut, which is the governor’s worst-case scenario,” said Associate Superintendent Doug Bower. “It depends on an election which nobody knows the outcome.”