Las Virgenes wants to extend school tax

The Las Virgenes Unified School District board of trustees wants to extend Measure E, the $98-per-year parcel tax, for eight years. Board members agreed to have the measure placed on the Nov. 6 ballot for the voters to decide.

The parcel tax was passed by voters in 2004 to offset state budget cuts in education and prevent reductions in key programs, Superintendent Donald Zimring said in his report to school board members. The tax generates approximately $2 million for the school district each year, but it will expire in July 2008, Zimring said.

The citizens oversight committee gave the district an A+ rating for the way the Measure E money has been applied to schools, Zimring said.

Board member Dave Moorman worked on the initial Measure E campaign. Although the economy has improved and the state has added funds for education, he said the money has been specifically earmarked and can’t be spent on general programs.

Moorman pointed to increased costs of running schools, higher special education costs and the loss of revenue from declining enrollment as reasons to renew the tax.

“In a perfect world what we would have hoped for several years ago was that this was a temporary thing, and that when our state government and federal government got their act together, as it were, and decided to provide real funding for public schools, we wouldn’t need this anymore in our district,” Moorman said.

“Yet the reality is we still do,” he said. “And we still need to ask our community to continue to support the public education quality level that we’ve achieved and continue to achieve and intend to continue to achieve in this district.”

Residents were surveyed in the spring, and according to the results it appears likely they would vote to renew the tax as long as the money continues to be spent on math, science, academic and student achievement programs, and art and music.

Over the last three years, the parcel tax paid for many programs in addition to plugging the financial gaps left by the loss of state funds. The tax paid for additional counselors, textbooks, reading, math and science programs, and other services.

Several exemptions are outlined in the Measure E language. Contiguous parcels used solely for owneroccupied, single family residential purposes will be treated as one parcel. Senior citizens and residents who receive state disability can be exempted from the tax. Exemption forms must be submitted to the board of education each year by June 15.

The parcel tax will be reduced if government sources use the tax as an excuse to decrease or offset any funding, the report states.

“It’s definitely driven by a real financial need in our district,” Moorman said.

Board member Gordon Whitehead said the Las Virgenes district is “underfunded” and that if the parcel tax is not renewed he fears services will be cut and “kids will suffer.”

A large part of the district budget goes to teacher salaries and benefits, board member Cindy Iser said, adding “We need to stay competitive.”

The board unanimously passed the resolution to place the parcel tax on the November ballot.

“It’s critical for this district that we pass this measure,” board member Pat Schulz said.

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