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Fremont schools parcel tax

I’ll have a story in Saturday’s paper about Measure K — a parcel tax to support Fremont schools.

After doing a little research for the story, the only question I really wanted to ask district officials was a softball: Why the heck didn’t they ask for more money?

The district is asking all property owners except seniors to fork over $53 per property over five years. That’ll come out to about $3.3 million — enough to potentially maintain library hours and maybe some instructional specialists, but nowhere near enough to make up the the $24 million in state funding the district has lost over the last two years.

If Measure K passes Fremont would be the ninth district in Alameda County with a parcel tax to help fund schools. I looked at every parcel tax election in the county over the last 10 years.

Fremont’s $53/parcel Measure K is by far the lowest.

Here’s the tale of the tape:
Dublin — $96 per parcel
Livermore —- $138 per parcel
Alameda — $120 per parcel
Emeryville — 10 cents per square foot, so the owner of a 1,600 sq. ft. home would pay $160
Piedmont — $1,141 for a parcel under 5,000 sq. ft. / $1,479 for parcel under 10,000 sq. ft.
Oakland — $195 per parcel, and they’re asking for a second $195 per parcel tax this year
Albany — $250 per residential parcel
Berkeley — Don’t even ask. They already have two separate parcel taxes and it’s a lot of money

There you have it: Fremont’s $53 per parcel tax would be nearly half the next lowest parcel tax to help fund schools.

But what about all those overpaid teachers who can’t get laid off?

Well, remember that the City of Fremont pays nearly an additional 30 percent on top of every cop and firefighters salary just to fund their pensions.

Teacher pensions aren’t so generous The district pays 6 to 7 percent on top of teacher salaries to fund their pensions, according to the district.

So why isn’t Fremont Unified asking for more money?

It doesn’t think it can get it. Polls showed a $68 per parcel tax failing to get the two-thirds majority required for passage.

And Fremont likely voters — like most likely voters — tend to be older. About 80 percent of Fremont likely voters don’t have kids in the district.

And there’s the example of Newark. Only one schools parcel tax in the county failed to win at least 50 percent of the vote over the past decade. Fremont’s neighbor asked voters for $150 per parcel in 2003. It only got 49.3 percent of the vote.

Matt Artz

  • http://fcnisbacon.wordpress.com/ Marty

    What does “an additional 30 percent on top of every cop and firefighters salary” run the city over 5 years? I’m estimating about $8 million.

    Like all new taxes, they don’t go to schools. They just free up money that is otherwise pledged to a public pensioner.

  • Chinmoy Roy

    If Sacramento refuses to fund our public schools and we have to fork out money for education this way, then we may as well have charter schools where the parents are empowered to run the schools. The Tea Partyy is crying out against “unfunded Federal mandates.” Our public education system in the State is becoming a unfunded mandate from Sacramento.

    It is about time that our School Board members, the teachers union etc. all come together and use their power to get more funds for our schools from other worthless programs in Sacramento. Or else get ready to welcome “Third World America.”

  • Bruce

    Marty: I thought you were in favor of this one…

    I don’t agree that this frees up money to go to pensioners. This will be our money to spend here in Fremont.

    Even with the parcel tax, the district will have to make cuts to close the deficit, without it things will be even more brutal.

  • http://fcnisbacon.wordpress.com/ Marty

    Our public education system in the State is becoming a unfunded mandate from Sacramento.

    Well, the mandate is that a portion of the state budget be spent on K-12. It is obvious that state cant perform on that obligation because of entitlements, pension obligations, social engineering projects and unstable funding sources. The state is ungovernable and too many dynamic interests have to be met with a dwindling amount of revenue.

    But, yes Bruce I support the assessment. Mostly because I personally need good schools and enjoy the effect those good schools have on property values in Fremont. $60 to sustain that is a no-brainer.

    My point was that it doesn’t matter for the worker where this money is going or how it is getting there. If his family brings in $100K/year, now he has to pay a higher percentage of his dwindling income, however nominal, to sustain a certain level of functioning government. Add this to the extra $1 it costs him to cross the bridge every day, add the 0.5% jack in state income tax since 2008 and we’re talking $800 per year this Fremont worker has to shell out for less services.

    So, let’s get to the root of why a greater percentage of our income results in less services and poorer public school performance. If you can answer this question without invoking public employee wages and retirement obligations please make that argument.

  • Chinmoy Roy

    No Sir, that is not the mandate I am talking about. IEPs for special needs. class size are some of the mandates from Sacramento that I am talking about. And then there are title 1 mandates.

  • Bruce

    Marty: I don’t know enough to dissect our state budget. Much of our money goes to state/local govt employees, though also a lot for entitlements and for bond payments. But with the parcel tax, at least we know where the money is going and have some say, so I’m glad we agree on that one.

  • http://fcnisbacon.wordpress.com/ Marty

    Chinmoy, yes I agree, and we are very good at mandating things we cant fund. I have a hard time cutting special need programs when there’s a structural compensation problem in our state that should be dealt with first.

    Both, I making the point that assessments sould not be used to maintain a certain level of performance. That property tax assessments should be used to improve the quality of schools.

    My analogy is a business borrowing money to expand, vs borrowing to meet payroll. In a sense, we are borrowing to meet payroll, which is futile. Things will be just as bad in a few years, and the solution will be another assessment, then another, then another.

  • Chinmoy Roy

    I am under the impression that Measure K funds would not go for payroll. Everything goes to our kids and hence it is a good measure. Besides, the district is not obligated to have a Citizen’s Bond Oversight Committee. But the Board has gone above and beyond and committed to have one. Hence unlike Measure G, this bond has been structured very well and gives us the “best value for our dollar”

  • Larry

    Measure K is a means to raise some local funds that will help address our immediate local needs. Sacramento and the federal government have both added required burdens to education without providing the funding necessary to implement them (unfunded mandates). At the same time, both entities have reduced the funding to education for basic services.
    Many people are unaware that Sacramento does not provide all the money needed for something as basic as textbooks. They fund most of the costs for textbooks, but the difference has to come from the General Fund. When that happens, there are fewer dollars to allocate for educational services.
    As we receive less funding, FUSD has had to increase class sizes, reduce the number of valued elementary prep teachers, reduce by 50% the number of Library Techs (limiting the access our students have to our libraries), reduce the number of secondary school counselors, reduce transportation services, as well as a host of other services.
    Taxes go from Fremont to the state and then a much smaller portion returns to FUSD. Measure K allows for local funds to remain in Fremont to be used directly for FUSD. There will be a Citizens’ Committee to recommend how the funds will be dispersed. The funds will go to address immediate needs like libraries and teachers. Measure K is a 5 year commitment and allows for an exemption for seniors of 65 years and older. Measure K specifically states that the proceeds cannot be used for administrative costs.
    Measure K will raise over 3 million dollars annually. These are local dollars that will stay local and will be used to help defend our students from the continual funding reductions that have become all too common and are sure to be continued for some years to come.
    In a nutshell – Measure K, essentially a dollar a week per household, will allow over 3 million dollars annually to stay in Fremont to help provide necessary services for our students, with a Citizens’ Committee to make the allocation recommendations, and none of the money raised would go to administrative costs. And it sunshines in 5 years.
    Measure K will keep local control over local dollars for our FUSD students. Our students need our support for Measure K.

  • http://fcnisbacon.wordpress.com/ Marty

    The measure is aimed at maintaining existing offerings, not improving them. When the district needs $53 from every household just to keep libraries open and certain programs on life support, they are in trouble.

    Ideally, these assessments should be used for capital investments, building new facilities and improving things. Just like the business owner who borrows to meet payroll, assessment funding of schools is not a long term solution.

  • Kevin Crossman

    Is the Argus going to do an endorsement piece for this and the council races?

  • californiaguy

    Lets hope not. The Argus (The San Leandro Newspaper) has endorsed Meg Whitman

  • Bruce

    Regarding long-term on Measure K: It has a 5 year life, so it is not permanent. And yes, it only serves to reduce the damage from the cuts we’ve had in state funding, even with measure K there will be more cuts to come.

  • Matt Artz

    Not sure about the endorsement. I think most readers assume that newspapers only makes an endorsement after an editorial board sits down with the candidates. Word of advice: You shouldn’t always assume that.