The current tax, approved by voters in 2011, isn’t set to expire until June 2018. However, the school district appears to be counting on expected high voter turnout during this presidential election year to pass an extension early.
The renewal would extend the tax on mostly the same, current, terms – parcels taxed at a rate of $0.32 per building square foot not to exceed $7,999 per parcel.
However, the proposed ballot measure doesn’t include language to tax unimproved parcels at a flat rate of $299 per year, as the current tax does.
The district’s mailer noted that the Board of Trustees voted to put the ballot on the measure this November during a June 28th meeting.
The mailer doesn’t note, however, that the vote wasn’t unanimous. Trustee Barbara Kahn abstained, using the vote on the parcel tax to make a stand for “equity for west-end schools.”
West-end schools have historically been more racially and socio-economically diverse than other schools in Alameda.
Kahn remarked that the lack of a neighborhood middle school in the west-end is a “big gaping hole” that the district needs to focus attention on.
Charter schools have tried to fill that gap, Kahn said, as has the district with the “junior jets” program at Encinal Junior and Senior High School.
But it’s not enough, she said. “Encinal is always last on the list,” and “we will have maybe 100 kids for the next several years trekking across town to middle school.”
Kahn remarked that the district will bend over backwards to people with power and authority who make noise about Encinal programs, but otherwise doesn’t give the school the attention it deserves.
She noted that Advanced Placement Biology and Computer Science programs – fundamental curriculum – have not been available to Encinal students when requested.
Kahn also said that Encinal has had seven principals “in the last few years” and now would have its eight, with Kirsten Zazo moving to a head office job.
In response to an unrelated public records request in May of this year, the school district informed Action Alameda News that Encinal Junior and Senior High School has five teachers in the classroom on waivers, and Alameda High School has four teachers on waivers.
Trustees Gray Harris and Gary Lym encouraged Kahn to reconsider her announced plan to abstain from the parcel tax vote, suggesting that a less than unanimous decision to support the tax would jeopardize the revenue it would provide, thereby harming the disadvantaged kids Kahn seeks to serve.
Kahn, who had earlier in the meeting said she is 87 years old, replied, “the most disadvantaged kids in this community are consistently disadvantaged because we do not pay attention. I have been talking about it for 45 years.”
In a roll call vote, Kahn abstained and the other four trustees all voted in favor of the motion to put the tax on the ballot.
The full language of the ballot measure is included below.