By KERRY BENEFIELD
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The Santa Rosa Junior College board of trustees on Monday will consider taking a key step toward putting a parcel tax before Sonoma County’s voters to offset steep cuts from Sacramento.
The seven member board called the special meeting to decide whether to hire a consultant and conduct a poll, said Board President Terry Lindley. He estimated the cost of a consultant could range from $25,000 to $40,000.
“I’m like everybody else, you get tired of having to deal with more and more taxes every time you turn around,” he said. “The other (option) is we could cut budgets, cut people.”
The junior college has already done both.
Nearly 26,480 students were attending classes at SRJC after initial spring enrollment — down from 29,880 at the same time in 2011 and from 31,070 in the spring of 2010.
The number of sections of credit classes is down 8.7 percent since last year and the number of noncredit classes is down nearly 39 percent.
“I have a supply problem. I have plenty of demand,” President Frank Chong said Friday. “I don’t have the supply — we are cutting sections.”
If voters fail to support Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax proposal on the November ballot, the impact could be dramatic at the college, Lindley and Chong said.
But Lindley acknowledged that a parcel tax, which can fund salaries and sections but needs two-thirds voter approval as opposed to a bond measure’s simple majority, can be a tough sell.
“It’s a lot easier to go after bricks and mortar,” he said. “I think voters are much more acceptable to funding new facilities rather than the operational side.”
Local voters rallied behind the college in 2002, approving a $251 million bond measure that expanded the Petaluma campus and added to and upgraded existing facilities on the Mendocino Avenue campus.
There is no timeline for when a parcel tax would go before voters if the trustees vote to move in that direction, Lindley said. He expects the board to make a decision Monday whether to push forward with a consultant or drop the idea.
“I hope we do one way or another,” he said. “We need to make a decision.”