Life without parcel taxes

By From page A10 | November 04, 2012

By Jose J. Granda

I would like to present an alternative to parcel taxes to be considered that I believe is workable for this highly educated city. I share the idea for extra funding of schools but respecting and considering the household budgets of the taxpayers. Education has been my business for 30 years, students are my top special interest group and the taxpayers are my other interest group.

I propose to replace the parcel tax system with a new, more robust and fair system for providing extra funding for schools. The backbone is the formation of the Davis School District Excellence in Education Foundation, a central 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with a master plan and a full-time staff whose main purpose would be to seek funding from external sources such as grants, endowments, wills and tax-deductible donations.

This idea is different from what we currently have. What we currently have are groups that raise funds for specific purpose and PTAs that raise funds, but there is not an integrated or coordinated effort as a system for the entire district.

In addition to the central nonprofit organization, each school is to have its own 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Any of these can apply and seek grants, endowments, wills and tax-deductible donations individually. Their main focus will be to meet the needs of that school but at the same time interact with the district. Each will have an individual objective with direction, financial goals and spending goals to supplement the needs of each school.

While the school board will be responsible for a master plan for the central nonprofit, this will give local neighborhoods and parents on those schools the control they need to take care of the needs of that school instead of waiting for a handout from the school board. More directly funding each school and under the control of the parents and teachers, you will see a real new change. You will see us finally taking care of dilapidated facilities and priorities locally defined in each neighborhood school.

The idea is that the central district foundation serves as a coordinating body but not a controlling body. What this does is provide a complete system where the budgets of each school can be balanced and those that collect more money can contribute to the overall financial well-being of the district and help each other so all schools benefit.

School standards in all schools should be the same, and the budgets should be in proportion to the school size but with a goal toward the same standard. Remember, this system is to provide extra funding above the state funding, not to replace it. For this reason, I feel it is the absolute responsibility of the district to fund teaching position from the general fund and not from this extra money or from parcel tax money.

I believe this would work because this city is different. Here, more than 80 percent of the professors make their living on grants and endowments for their projects and sustain their careers this way. There is a huge amount of opportunities for funding for schools from the government, such as the Department of Education, NASA and the National Science Foundation, and from the private sector, like Boeing and Microsoft. This method could produce millions of dollars more than the $3.2 million in parcel taxes paid for all practical purposes by homeowners for the benefit of others.

Those who don’t know what this system can do will question it. The talent here is expressed in the motivation parents give to kids to succeed in school and that makes a huge difference in the overall quality of education. The local talent of experts in writing grants can help schools with their expertise to obtain new funding. This method produced $132 million for UC Davis this year.

Those who want to contribute voluntarily at the level or more than the parcel taxes will have now an avenue for tax-deductible contributions as opposed to the parcel taxes, which are not tax-deductible. If Measure E does not pass, Davis residents still have the option of contributing voluntarily the same amount or more if they wish. The district should send the bill to everybody and those who like to support the schools the same way they were doing are welcome to do so.

— Jose J. Granda, a longtime Davis resident and professor at Sacramento State University, is a member of the No on School Board Taxes political action committee.

Special to The Enterprise

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