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Ten Good Reasons To Vote Against the AUSD Parcel Tax (Measure E)

by Dennis Green.

Not Again!
Too Soon, Too Much.
No on Measure E!

There are many good reasons to vote NO on the upcoming new school parcel tax, which would last eight years and, at $659 per year for residential real estate, would be an increase of 114% over Measures A&H combined, which equal $309 per year and don’t even expire until the end of 2012.

1) If you’re among the 55% of Alamedans who don’t own real estate, rising home prices — whether they’re tied to schools or not — do not benefit you. In fact, they make Alameda less affordable for middle class people, and raise the rents and taxes and all other prices on the island.

2) The parcel tax initiative would do an end-run on legislation pending in Sacramento that would reduce the requirements to pass a parcel tax from 2/3 of the voters to 55%, but would also limit any new parcel tax to $250. AUSD is attempting to thwart the intention of such a legislative compromise.

3) The initiative says it will “exempt seniors and the disabled” from having to pay the new tax, but in the past many disabled have not qualified for the exemption, and seniors have to sign up during a brief, unadvertised window of opportunity every year to receive the exemption, and many seniors fail to qualify. This so-called “exemption,” however, makes it easier for the backers to achieve the 2/3 necessary margin.

4) Property values in Alameda, regardless of high property and parcel taxes going to the schools, regularly suffer depressed markets — by 40% in the early 1990s and again in 2008. Expensive schools are no guarantee of high prices, even for the 45% of voters who own real estate.

5) High expenditures on public schools are no guarantee of quality outcomes or excellence in teaching. If they were, Oakland schools would be twice as good as Alameda’s, (and the housing prices there would be double ours), since they spend twice as much per pupil as AUSD does.

6) The language of the parcel tax initiative is intentionally vague, because, as School Board Trustee and Board Vice President Mike McMahon says, “We don’t want to tie our hands to specific expenditures because we won’t see the State budget until much later this year.” But that means there is no relationship between the initiative, its spending, and the new Master Plan.

7) Even the new Master Plan, which was formulated in part by political consultants Erwin & Muir, contains many inefficiencies — such as keeping smaller, underenrolled “neighborhood schools” open, code language for schools distinguished by de facto segregation. Also requires special teachers for art, music and P.E. classes for elementary schools.

8) California, and especially Alameda, already have some of the highest taxes in the nation. Even with Prop. 13, there are sixteen states with lower property taxes than California, including Oregon, Nevada and Utah, which often poach businesses away from our state.

9) There are many questionable expenses in the AUSD budget — including a full-time attorney with staff support, well over $217,000 in expenses fighting lawsuits filed against the last parcel tax, (of the very sort which will be filed against the new one as well), a “webmaster” who happens to be the daughter of Trustee Mike McMahon, $300/hour to Erwin & Muir, and $140,000 earmarked for a new “development director.”

10) Most compellingly, a “Yes” vote encourages waste in school spending, a lack of accountability and transparency, and simply delays the kinds of radical reforms desperately needed in American education — features of President Obama’s “Race to the Top” Program and Funding — such as teacher evaluation, merit pay, parental school choice, classroom discipline and the Virtual Classroom, all in return for extra funding.

13 comments to Ten Good Reasons To Vote Against the AUSD Parcel Tax (Measure E)

  • Lori

    Voting no on the property tax will shortchange our schools and our children. Action Alameda is merely trying to use the parcel tax vote as a way to advance its anti-growth agenda. Being against growth is fine, but to do so at the expense of our schools is shameful.

    I have yet to see anything from AA that provides a timely solution to the AUSD budget shortfall. Until I see something compelling on this, I will vote YES!

  • We don’t see any problem with elementary school consolidation – it would save money, as evidenced by the District’s statements about the need to close elementary schools if the parcel tax doesn’t pass. Consolidating elementary schools would also create better racial diversity among our elementary schools.

    The District also ignored suggestions to adjust grades across high schools, middle schools and elementary schools, to better balance enrollment with school capacity. This should be investigated further, in conjunction with elementary school consolidation.

    We don’t believe the “Master Plan” effort was an honest one – it was orchestrated by Erwin & Muir, political consultants that charge the District $300/hour to pass parcel taxes. The options in the Master Plan are not honest options, but “false choice” options between a new parcel tax and a “doomsday” scenario.

    California was left out of the first-round of the Obama administration “reach for the top” funding – it’s widely speculated that this is because the teacher’s unions wouldn’t go along with the necessary changes to state law to qualify.

    We also believe part of the solution is for our elected officials in City Hall, and on the District, to stop supporting redevelopment, which takes local property taxes away from the Schools, and uses that money to subsidize developers, thereby requiring parcel taxes.

    Johnson, Matarrese, Gilmore, Lena Tam, Daysog, McMahon and Mooney have all been either sympathetic or active promoters of redevelopment schemes, which take over $15 million per year in local property taxes out of the revenue limit bucket. So long as this continues, we will face school funding shortfalls continuously. We explained this to Measure H supporters in 2008, and they ignored it, and here we are again.

    We’re not anti-development, but we are against taking money from schools – and our children – to subsidize private companies for private profit, and then go and tax the people. This is what happened with the Wall St. bailout, and its what’s happening with redevelopment.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAwfRXA3Ie0

  • Smart voter

    I will be voting NO on Measure E, because there have been 4 school taxes since 2002. First the Bond Measure C,that we all are still paying. Then came Measure A for $109.00, that was increased by $80.00 just a few years later. We where told this money would keep sports and music programs and retain good Teachers. Then in 2008 came yet another parcel tax,an emergency tax we where told,again the same rhetoric.Now it’s 2010 and we are facing yet another tax. Not only is it more than double but also twice as long.There are many people living in Alameda, than can barely make their mortgage payments and living from paycheck to paycheck, if their lucky to still have a job. There are more renters in Alameda than home owners, their landlords will be passing this tax onto them. Seniors who can afford to pay this kind of money, should write a check to the Alameda Education Foundation, that way the money will go directly to the classrooms and not to salaries and benefits, which accounts for 92% of AUSD budget. I am a senior and would never vote to put a tax on my neighbors, that I myself can’t afford. To ask seniors to do so, is an outrage.
    Before our elected officials again endorse this tax, they should be asking AUSD why they spend money on political consultants and Web designers, when there is not enough money for the class rooms.
    Enough is enough, we all have to live within our means and the AUSD should start being fiscally responsible like the rest of us.

  • propubliceducation

    Neither the “Master Plan” nor the Parcel tax are designed to promote public education in Alameda. They’re about protecting segregated schools. Sorry, Lori, AUSD does shortchange children, probably not yours, but children from Alameda. Alameda’s got another problem: not enough money. Needs to close schools, but can’t, that would mean your kids would go to school with mine. $14M a year can’t solve the problem; segregated schools cost more to operate. Especially when more worried about “anti-bullying” (code for distraction)than education. Vote no on E (as in Excellence for a Few).

  • propubliceducation

    btw, all of u that send ur kids to private and then come out in favor of Measure E, please don’t think ur really “making a difference.” Ur perpetuating the hypocrisy of Alameda. Call it what it is: a handout for those less fortunate than ur own. When ur kids go to Head Royce, Julia Morgan, Bishop O’Dowd, St. Joe’s, Beacon Day, please vote no on E. Voting yes doesn’t solve the problem, it perpetuates the hypocrisy. Send ur kids to AUSD, that’ll make a difference: you’d demand education.

  • Anonymous

    Spoke with a longterm AUSD teacher this week, who advised that the easiest way to save the needed money would be to close the administration down for a year – to start. The administration does nothing that would be noticed in the classroom. The teacher indicated that it would be necessary to keep the clerical staff, however, as they do all of the work. The administrators are usually gone during the day and not around anyway. When the teacher mentioned how many lawyers they had, I wanted to throw up.

    Keep the teachers, furlough all the administration except clerical, and of course fire all the lawyers. Then you can keep most of the schools open for your children. This isn’t going to shortchange the schools or any children. What is shameful is the way the ME, MY CHILDREN, PRESERVE ALL THE SCHOOLS FOR MY CHILDREN parents ignore or forget that the taxpayers already paid their dues. And these same parents keep electing officials that will not equalize funding, that have relatives that run campaigns for new parcel taxes, and keep perpetuating the same problem by putting a bandaid on an open wound that needs serious stitching. It makes it quite apparent that these parents do not want to fix the problems from the bottom up for everyone, but only to make the best out of the schools while their children are in them.

  • Barb

    This is so confusing. The new tax is to start July 1, 2010, while the other two parcel taxes don’t even end until 2012. How can this be? I read the language of the new parcel tax ballot initiative and am concerned that we will now be paying not one, not two, but three parcel taxes until 2012.
    The new tax claims to supercede the old taxes, but is that what will really happen? [AUSD said disabled persons would be exempt, but it turned out only a certain group of specifically defined disabled persons were eligible. Just getting disability wasn’t enough.)
    What if the old ballot measures got more votes than the new one? Does the language of the old supercede the new ballot measure’s language? After all we have been through with AUSD, this should be in writing up front for everyone to see before we vote. Shouldn’t there be a clause in the ballot, that actually repeals the two earlier ones if the new one passes for this to be certain?

  • Smart voter

    Barb

    This also concerns me, to repeal or replace a tax you only need a simple majority, but to add a parcel tax, 2/3rd of the voters have to approve. This needs to be clarified. AUSD can not afford to put both measures on the ballot, if repeal and replace passes and the new tax doesn’t, they have nothing :)

  • Louise

    Yes, it’s time go ahead and consolidate some schools. From what I see, the low enrollment at some schools is caused in part by families with kids preferring new houses which have floor plans that are more family-friendly than the smaller single-story bungalows. Let’s close those schools and move on. I’m sorry that some people will lose their jobs, but it’s the reality of the economy at the moment.

    The overlapping dates of this tax are alarming and I think it’s very unfair to give seniors an opt out – while some are hurting financially, a lot paid off their houses years ago and have good incomes making them in much better shape than younger homeowners.

    The real question to me is why there hasn’t been an active group trying to rescind the Alameda Hospital parcel tax. Like so many people, I’m covered with Kaiser – which I love – and from what I see I’m getting absolutely zippo for the money I pay to keep that hospital open. If the city needs a much smaller emergency care facility that would be fine, but I’m increasingly resentful for spending that hospital parcel tax for a money pit.

  • Opponents to the Hospital tax would need to organize and run a “repeal” ballot measure – http://www.hjta.org/tools/how-defeat-local-parcel-taxes

  • nomoretaxes

    AUSD has not had an “in-house” attorney for at least 7 years. Superintendent Dailey ran the school district just fine without one. She knew that using outside counsel on an as-needed-basis was more cost efficient. The Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent, the CFO and all of the various District Directors do not need individual executive assistants making almost six figures. The executives at most organizations with an operating budget the size of AUSD type thier own memos, answer their own phones or have one executive assistant serving a number of executives. Here is what is needed to run an efficient organization with the same size as AUSD in the back office: a Superintendent (1 support staff), a CFO with a fiscal department of 5-6 staff (payroll, A/P, purchasing, accountants), Department Heads with 1-2 support staff, a janitorial staff, a District Nurse with 3-4 traveling health aides. School offices need an Office Mangaer with 1-2 clerical staff. Other ways to cut expenses: furloughs, salary cuts, reduce retirement contributions (many companies have frozen salaries & retirement contributions during the recession). Ways to raise revenue: fundraisers, donations from local merchants and individuals, flea market sales, etc.

  • The list of litigation that AUSD is involved in is growing. From the April 13th agenda:
    A-2d. Conference with Legal Counsel Existing Litigation – Pursuant to Subdivision (a) of Section 54956.9
    (1) Beery et. al. v. AUSD, and Borikas, et. al. v. AUSD consolidated Case #RG 08-405984
    (2) Balde, et. al. v. AUSD, et. al., Case #RG 09-468037
    (3) Kerry Cook and Serena Dietrich v. AUSD, Case #RG 10-498999
    (4) Peter Hagberg v. AUSD, Case # RG 10500556
    (5) Greenwood v. AUSD, Case #RG 09455327
    (6) Boucher v. AUSD, Case #RG 09468496
    (7) Kimberlite Corp. v. AUSD, Case #VG 10499114
    (8) I.I. v. AUSD OAH Case #2009110451

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