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Measure A designed to sustain existing school programs

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March 30, 2011 | 23 Comments

Seventh-graders work on a robotics project during seventh period at Holmes Junior High School. The enrichment period will be eliminated if Measure A fails in this spring's vote-by-mail election. Seated are Ricky Engkabo, 13, foreground, and Heather Houston, 13. Standing, from front, are Bia Kinder, 13; Ari Jenks, 12; and Emma Kaplan, 12. Fred Gladdis/Enterprise photo

The question facing local voters in this spring’s Measure A election is simple. Do you want to see Davis schools continue to operate at their current level of excellence? Or are you willing to accept bigger class sizes, fewer teachers, a shorter school day for most junior high students, fewer course options for high school students and fewer counselors?

Since 2008, the state has reduced funding to the Davis school district by about $6 million, slashing the budget from about $71 million to $65 million. Class sizes for students in kindergarten through third grade have increased from 20 to 25 students. Core English and math classes at the high school have between 30 and 40 students.

If the $200-per-year emergency parcel tax is approved, the $3 million per year it will raise over the next two years will allow these class sizes to remain. But if it fails, K-3 classes will swell to about 30 students per teacher.

Another big cutback if Measure A fails: Students in seventh and eighth grades will lose their seventh period, and the practical result is that students will be able to choose only one elective. Will it be a music class or a foreign language? Art or computers?

Measure A’s failure also would mean cuts to the ranks of school secretaries, custodians, yard-duty workers and counselors.

“It’s pretty devastating, the budget we’ve come up with that we’ll have to do if Measure A doesn’t pass,” said school board president Richard Harris.

Or as Superintendent Winfred Roberson put it, “We’re already ‘bare-boning’ it” in terms of what is being offered to students, as compared to a few years ago.

Trustee Sheila Allen said “the gravity of Measure A especially hit home on Tuesday night, when I heard the Emerson Junior High Choir sing a beautiful rendition of Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water.’ That is what Measure A is — a bridge over troubled water for our students.

“While the state of California is not able to fund their education at a sufficient level right now, Davis will not let that happen to our students.”

History of support

Measure A is a parcel tax — a flat charge of $200 per year per single-family home over a two-year period, or $20 per year per unit for multi-unit dwellings (apartments, condos, duplexes, etc.).

Davis voters first approved a parcel tax in the early 1980s, locally restoring funds that had been lost by the school district after voters approved 1978’s Proposition 13, which limited property taxes. Voters have consistently approved renewals of the tax — which requires a two-thirds majority — ever since, at roughly four-year intervals.

The situation has grown critical of late, as the state budget has gone from bad to worse. In November 2007, Davis voters approved Measure Q, a $200-per-year tax for single-family homes, which will expire on June 30, 2012. But by November 2008, the state budget crisis had carved deeply into the Davis schools’ budget, and voters approved Measure W, an “add-on” three-year parcel tax that charged $120 per year per single-family home. Measure W also will expire in June 2012.

But the cuts from Sacramento have kept on coming. Davis school leaders have covered the budget gap in patchwork fashion, with cuts to teaching ranks (and corresponding class size increases), a voluntary retirement incentive and donations raised by the Davis Schools Foundation.

Now, the school board is turning to voters once again with Measure A, which basically amounts to a two-year reprieve, while the district works out a longer-term financial plan. Officials also are hoping the state’s economy finally turns a corner.

“It is an emergency stopgap measure,” Harris said. The alternative is immediate program and staffing cuts.

The $200 in Measure A would be on top of the current $320 per year paid under Measures Q and W. It’s the largest total amount voters have ever been asked to approve, and it’s coming at a time when the regional and national economies are still suffering.

Harris is counting on local voters to say “yes.” “It’s all about local control,” he said.

The state has proved to be a most unreliable budget partner. State funds in many categories have been reduced or deferred, to the point that the Davis school district soon will have less in its cash reserves than it has in IOU promises from the state.

“People move to Davis because of the schools,” Harris said. “I have friends that are moving here from the Bay Area, and they’re moving to Davis because the schools are the best that they can find.

“If people value their community, they’re going to value that local control to keep the schools great for the kids — as well as their property values,” he continued. It’s well documented that communities with good schools have higher home values. Davis homes typically sell for $150,000 to $200,000 more than similar-sized homes in other communities, making the local education system an investment that many homeowners want to protect.

“I’m helping with the Measure A phone bank,” Harris said. “Some people are voting for it because of their kids, other people are voting for it because they want the school to be great, so the community is great.”

Associate Superintendent Bruce Colby also views the election as a matter of “local control. It’s about what we want education to be. Since the state is no longer going to fund it, we need to take over the control locally to provide the quality programs that have traditionally served Davis students — programs that the Davis community has come to expect. It’s really about what Davis is.”

Superintendent Roberson pointed out that Measure A funds no new programs.

“This is huge for us,” Roberson said. “It affects our students. These are front-line people we could lose, people who work with students and touch their lives. I’m proud of our school board for recognizing the need to introduce Measure A as a means of preserving the staffing levels we currently have. So while the teachers and personnel are part of it — a huge part of it — ultimately, this is all about our students, and what we’re able to deliver to them.

“Measure A allows us to maintain staffing to deliver similar services to what we’ve had this past year.”

Roberson also has been helping with the phone bank. Are voters surprised when they find the superintendent himself ringing them up and asking for their vote?

“The people I’ve talked with have been very supportive and cordial,” Roberson said. “Mostly, they tell me ‘Hey, I’ve supported parcel tax measures in the past, and I will be supporting this one.’

“We can’t wait on the state,” he added. “The state is not in a position to bail us out. This is our opportunity to act locally, and do what is in the best interest of our students.”

Senior exemption

Like previous versions of the school parcel tax, Measure A has a senior exemption. To claim it, residents must show they are at least 65 years old, own their home and live in that home. Colby said about 900 seniors claim the exemption for Measures Q and W.

The Davis City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to endorse Measure A. The Davis Teachers Association and the local unit of the California School Employees Association also have formally voiced support. Measure A has not drawn any organized opposition.

Vote by mail

Measure A will be conducted as a vote-by-mail election, with no polling places. Ballots will be mailed to registered voters next week. New voters can continue to register through April 18.

Ballots must be received at the Yolo County Elections Office in Woodland by 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 3. They may be mailed, or may be dropped off in a special box at the Stephens Branch Library, 315 E. 14th St. in Davis.

Holding the election by mail costs the school district about $120,000 less than a traditional election with polling places.

— Reach Jeff Hudson at jhudson@davisenteprise.net or (530) 747-8055.

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 23 comments

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  • Empty pocketsMarch 31, 2011 - 10:40 am

    You can spin this issue any way you want. That doesn't change the fact that Davis residence pockets are just as empty as the rest of the nation. The school need to come up with another solution, say better budget managing, to sustain themselves.

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  • Agree With Empty PocketsMarch 31, 2011 - 11:22 am

    The earlier comment is partially true. Some Davis elites with monetary clout will have no problem paying an additional $200 tax per year, but some of us are struggling to make ends meet. I would love to save teachers' jobs, but I can't save the world with my paycheck. Another thought: Does anybody know many non-resident students are enrolled in Davis schools? It hardly seems fair if they will not have to pay the additional parcel tax.

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  • MGMarch 31, 2011 - 11:31 am

    I agree with the other comments, my pockets are empty and will be facing pay cuts on my job. I'm not one of the Davis elites. When my income goes down, I have to cut spending and Davis needs to do the same. Additionally, we should be charging the non-residents a $1,000 plus a year tax if they wish to attend our schools. Not fair that they get a free ride on the backs of us taxpayers.

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  • What kind of future do you want?March 31, 2011 - 1:11 pm

    I'm not one of the Davis elites, either. My wife and I have a modest income and we support this Measure. The ones most affected if this fails and all the cuts go through are lower income families. If the affluent feel like the schools aren't measuring up, they will pay for the tutors, switch to private schools, or move elsewhere. Other families won't move here. Passing this Measure would add more than $200 value to your home. What's wrong is the legislature doesn't have the guts to tax corporations their fair share. General Electric pays no income tax. Amazon pays no sales tax unlike local retailers.

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  • Balance66March 31, 2011 - 1:43 pm

    FYI- In response to comments regarding the out of district students who attend school in Davis, the school district can't require them to pay. However, every family receives a letter from DJUSD requesting a donation equivalent to the size of these parcel taxes. Also, don't forget that these families also pay for their own community school systems via local taxes. Yes they choose to have their kids attend Davis schools for all kinds of reasons, and DJUSD gets ADA for these students. It's the same for Davis families who choose to send their kids into Sacramento for private, charter and public schools. They still pay the Davis Parcel taxes. So do the families that have kids that have graduated and people that don't have school age kids!

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  • Jeanette VanceMarch 31, 2011 - 1:48 pm

    The benefits of a good school system extend to all in the community- affluent students and less wealthy students, those with kids in school or not. Excellent schools mean a stable population, vibrant community, strong businesses and better local job opportunities and stability. The $200 per year works out to $3.85 per week....I would gladly save that much per week by having an additional meatless meal or bringing a thermos of coffee from home to work. Aren't our kids worth it?

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  • some taxes = better quality of lifeMarch 31, 2011 - 2:23 pm

    JV, I agree. Yes, our kids are absolutely worth it. Our whole town is worth it. Our respected school district is one of the primary reasons our property values are insulated (somewhat) from the real estate collapse that has devastated most of this country. Communites that haven't voluntarily invested more in their school districts are not so lucky. A better school district benefits EVERYONE, not just families with school aged children. I don't think my modest 4 X 2 in old East Davis is actually worth what the market will bear. But one of the central reasons why it has the value it does, is because of the DJUSD. 200 bucks doesn't seem too much to begrudgingly cough up in order to protect that investment.

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  • Learn the TruthMarch 31, 2011 - 5:06 pm

    Learn the whole truth - Please vist www.ed-data.org to learn the facts. This article leaves out the fact that the 2006 budget for the district was $64MM. We now have 24 more students in 2010 and need $17MM more to maintain status-quo compared to 2007? Something doesn't add up.

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  • District CBOMarch 31, 2011 - 11:50 pm

    Learn the true facts.The numbers add up. Ed-data 2006-07 General Fund $68.6m, $8,191 per student, 96% of state average. Ed-data 2008-09 General Fund $71.2m, $8,664 per student, 95% of state average. Current approved district budget 2010-11 General Fund $68.7 + Charter School $2.8m = $71.5m, approximately $8,700 per student Projected district budget 2011-12 with Measure A, General Fund $67.0 + Charter School $3.0 m = $70.0, approximately $8,522 per student, Increase of $331/student since 2006-07, 4% (0ver 5 years, less than 1% average) State school inflation factor (COLA) since 2007 up 15% to 2010-11, 17% to 2011-12 (not funded by state since 2007-08) District expenditures relatively flat since 2006-07. Measure A preserves current programs at flat expenditure levels.

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  • DavidApril 01, 2011 - 6:59 am

    Stop with the "sympathy for our children "campaign. Manage the school district's budget like an adult. No more taxes !

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  • Huh?April 01, 2011 - 8:02 am

    "Stop with the “sympathy for our children “campaign. Manage the school district’s budget like an adult. No more taxes !" Is this an April Fool's joke? The school district has managed its budget responsibly. It is giving voters a choice: "Are you okay with these cuts, or not?" A minority in the state legislature opted for an all-cuts budget by not allowing California voters a choice to extend taxes or not. They did not have the fortitude to meet the governor half way. I'm sorry, but the choice to see that kids have a decent education is an adult decision.

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  • CFApril 01, 2011 - 1:49 pm

    My daughter and her classmates are facing some very tough choices. They have been working very, very hard to participate in both the band and/or orchestra program along with a language program. She is working to go on an abroad program and has already started a savings account to that end. But with the upcoming budget cuts she must decide between band and language. If she chooses language, not only does she miss out on contact with a teacher who has connected with and inspired her, she also harms all her classmates. After all, they are only truly a band if they all play together. On the other hand, if she chooses band, she will be unable to finish the second half of the french 1A program and will have to start over and repeat the course the following year. Academically this is not a good choice as the repeat of the first half of the year leads to boredom in the kids and makes it less likely for them to succeed. And just as the band teacher has inspired her, the French teacher is outstanding and very perceptive and motivational with her students. How do these kids decide between two fantastic teachers and programs when the loss of either one damages their goals and group. Please support Measure A and send in your ballot when received in the mail. Thank you so much!!!

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  • Hey CFApril 01, 2011 - 5:22 pm

    Sorry about your daughter, but why are you asking taxpayers to pay her way? Do you think Sacramento and Woodland kids are any less deserving of a break? No, they are not, Somehow Davis people always think they should be insulated from everything and ask for a handout on the backs of taxpayers who are already spread thin. So tired of the Davis entitlement attitude. SO SICK of it.

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  • Win the futureApril 01, 2011 - 10:00 pm

    To "Hey CF": You can justify inaction by saying that because we can't save the world, then don't even begin here in Davis. Other school systems have bigger problems than we do, but here we can actually do something about local schools and make them work for Davis students. People complain about how inadequate the public schools are, but when given a chance to make them work, we get weird rationalities about how it's just not right.

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  • Davis parentApril 01, 2011 - 10:09 pm

    "So tired of the Davis entitlement attitude. SO SICK of it." Here's what gets me: hearing Thomas Randall (head of the No vote) make that very argument. Mr. Randall, a product of a Davis education. Other people paid out for his fine public school education, yet when it comes time for him to help pay back and help the future generation, he opposes helping out.

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  • Davis MomApril 02, 2011 - 12:57 am

    I support Measure A. I have children in the public schools, who will be in the public schools for many years to come. They depend on this schooling for their future. That future is already being compromised by budget cuts to UC, CSU, and community colleges. If they need to go out of state for a decent college education in 8 and 11 years, then they need all the K-12 help they can get. Prior generations, including my own, benefited from a robust public K-12 and college system in California, second to none in the world. And now we are gutting it, from K straight through college graduation. I am strapped every single month for $200, but there is no question in my mind whether I will vote for this. And if you can't be altruistic, then be selfish: Davis home prices are higher than surrounding communities' to a significant degree because of our school district. And if you gut our school district, then you are gutting the value of your own home. Altruistic or selfish, Measure A is the only way to go.

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  • analog_guyApril 02, 2011 - 2:36 am

    "We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community...Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own." - César E Chávez

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  • Davis ParentApril 02, 2011 - 6:05 pm

    Another issue with Measure A - why is this a one-price-for-all tax increase? Why not a percentage of your home value? An extra $200 per year ON TOP OF what I already pay for property taxes is a lot for me, but I'm sure its a drop in the bucket for many folks I know in town. I am already working overtime just to make ends meet. I would feel much better about this tax if I wasn't paying a greater percentage of my income than my wealthy neighbors (based on property values - if you own an expensive home, you've made a choice that you will pay higher taxes). Does anyone know if a graduated tax system for Measure A was considered, or if it is even an option legally?

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  • anonApril 02, 2011 - 10:32 pm

    The choices availabe for how a parcel tax can be assessed are limited.

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  • $200 is a lot for someApril 03, 2011 - 9:27 am

    I couldn't agree with yoIu more, Davis Parent. I am also a Davis parent, think the schools are good, and can get very emotional about my children and their education. But $200 to us is a lot more to us than many others in this town. We are the unemployed and the underemployed and struggle to make ends meet. Ten years ago, we were in a totally different situation and voted YES on everything. I am also disgusted by the arguments that this is good for our property values. Some people just don't get it!

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  • Davis HomeownerApril 02, 2011 - 9:37 pm

    Preserve Your Property Value -Vote for Measure A The value of homes in Davis is approaching a staggering $250,000 more than similar homes in neighboring towns, just 10-20 miles away. For a minimum 3BR/2BA home, that can more than double the price of a bank sale in Vacaville (about $150K). Why would anyone pay that premium to live in Davis? Is it the great restaurants? The friendly Farmer's Market? The superb town newspaper? Our gracious city council? Sorry, NO. The reason newcomers are willing to spend vast sums for a Davis home is the great support our community provides to ensure a top notch education. If this measure fails, the cumulative loss in property values in Davis will be staggering. Guessing that we have about 15,000 single family homes, the current bonus for our strong education reputation is something like $3.5 Billion in higher property values on those properties alone. I am concerned how we can sustain such a large premium even WITH measure A passing. If home buyers see that commitment to "the best schools" breaking down, it will be impossible to sustain that difference. If this measure fails, property owners in Davis will see $200 disappear from their equity in milliseconds. Getting it back will take heroic measures to reassure the market. If you want to protect your property value, vote for Measure A. The kids will benefit too, if you care.

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  • Davis ParentApril 03, 2011 - 7:39 am

    I'm not sure I agree with the previous comment that the consequences of not passing Measure A will be that drastic. Let's be honest here. People like to live in Davis because most folks here are like minded in terms of politics, environmental issues, etc. Also, many of us are college educated and we like to live next to smart people. Do you think Woodland doesn't have quality teachers? And yet they still have lots of gang problems and kids with no ambition. While I do not totally discount the effect of our teachers, a large reason our schools do well is because the people who live here are so well educated. I am a teacher who used to teach in a community similar to Davis, and as much as I liked to believe it was my teaching ability that made 99% of them college-bound, the truth is it was the intense parental involvement (and pressure) that drove those students. We have smart, driven parents in Davis. We will survive. And if this thing doesn't pass, please direct your anger in the proper direction. Not to the Davis voters who simply cannot afford more taxes, but to our government which got us into this mess (or whatever you believe caused this economic downturn).

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  • Another Davis ParentApril 03, 2011 - 10:06 am

    I think you assume that things now are as they were in your day. That's not the case. Five years ago, you could show up at a California community college the first day and sign up for a full schedule on the spot. Now if you don't register in advance at the first opportunity, you can count on sitting out for that semester. Even if you do succeed in signing up, a number of required classes may already be full. Where it used to take easily two years to finish a community college program, it may well take 3-4 years now. Community college is no longer the easy stepping stone to higher education, and I'm sure I don't need to discuss how messed up the traditional 4-year college system is. The best chance that high school students have to make it to higher education is high school counselors and having a program that encourages students to graduate and have some options. But you know what? Most of the secondary counselors in the district will be laid off next year without this parcel tax. Those that remain are likelier to be dealing with personal crises that students are having, rather than helping all students (HS seniors, especially) plan for their future. In my day, if you graduated from high school and didn't go to college, or if you dropped out of high school, you had a chance to get hired on to a shift the General Motors plant down the road. You could by a house and raise a family with a job like that. That plant no longer exists in my old hometown. Those jobs were shipped overseas. There is extremely little chance of getting a job that will allow you to raise a family (and maybe buy a house) unless you graduate from high school and go to college. This parcel tax is about helping our students transition to that future. Without it, sure, some families have the money and wherewithall to help their children navigate. But I suspect that easily 50-60% will not be aware or ready to take advantage of the options that exist. "And if this thing doesn’t pass, please direct your anger in the proper direction. Not to the Davis voters who simply cannot afford more taxes, but to our government which got us into this mess." In California we have been conditioned to rely on the state government to provide us our local education. State government isn't working. You would have us reject this and say that it isn't our fault and there's nothing we can do about it. Decisions as to what our local schools will be like and how to fund them are best made at the local level. In a democracy, government is determined by the people, for better or for worse. In Davis, we have the values and understanding to do something about this. We want our students to have a chance for what happens to be the biggest industry in town: higher education. Measure A will make that happen.

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