Voters will be asked to help the Menlo Park City School District bridge a projected $2 million budget shortfall with a $178 parcel tax.
The school board voted Feb. 2 to put a seven-year parcel tax measure on ballot on a special May 4 mail-in election. The $178 tax is expected to raise enough to save teachers' jobs, but not cover the entire shortfall, said Superintendent Ken Ranella. Budget cuts and dipping into reserve funds should make up the difference, he said.
Cuts in state funding, flat property tax revenues and surging enrollment are to blame for the district's budget woes, said Mr. Ranella. Without the parcel tax, he said he is looking at making $800,000 in cuts to certificated personnel, which includes teachers, administrators, librarians and school nurses.
Raising enough to bridge the entire projected shortfall would have amounted to a $303 annual parcel tax, but board members didn't think that would pass, said Jeff Child, the board president. Asking voters for $178 was deemed a safer number that would be more like to be approved.
"We think it's a number that makes sense. It's 50 cents a day," said Mr. Child. "It's not nothing, but to protect our schools and the quality of our schools, that's a reasonable number."
The $178 parcel tax is in addition to the current parcel tax assessments totaling $565 per year. The K-8 Menlo Park district, which includes much of Menlo Park and Atherton, has a projected $30 million operating budget for the 2010-11 school year. Like the current parcel taxes, there is an exemption for senior citizens. However the district's other parcel taxes have no expiration date, while the proposed parcel tax would expire in 2017.