Editor’s Note: The following story was corrected May 4 to correct where the funding for Measure A will go.
The students of Palo Alto High School have an undeniably wide range of resources available to them on a daily basis, ranging from technological equipment such as iPads and laptops, to staff members who meet one-on-one with students to ensure that they receive the academic and emotional support they need. What the Paly community may not always take the time to consider, however, is where the funding to provide these readily available resources comes from. On May 5, voters of the Palo Alto Unified School District will determine the fate of Measure A, a raise in parcel tax that would increase funding for the Palo Alto education system.
The Paly Voice presents the Measure A controversy in five minutes or less.
What is the parcel tax?
A parcel tax is a tax assessed against each unit or “parcel” of taxable land in a district. Palo Alto’s parcel tax is on a six-year cycle designed to ensure that the community is supporting the Palo Alto Unified School District’s current programs, goals for class size reduction and staff salaries. According to the school board’s 2015 Parcel Tax Renewal Resolution, the last parcel tax, passed on May 4, 2010, was an assessment of $589 per parcel with an annual two percent escalation. In January, the PAUSD school board decided to add Measure A, which will increase the current parcel tax to $758 per parcel, on a special May ballot.
What are the issues at stake?
The district’s financial stability will be impacted by voters’ decision on the proposed increase of parcel tax. Supporters of the $120 increase claim that PAUSD needs the extra money because state and local governments cannot provide sufficient unrestricted funding.
According to a poll conducted by the school board, 79 percent of voters felt that the most important use of the potential revenue produced from the parcel tax is “adding support staff to help at-risk students who are struggling with the basics.”
Why are people divided on this issue?
The high tax vs. low tax issue is not a new point of political and economic contention. However, this time, Measure A is in jeopardy after the school board made certain decisions to reduce student stress, which faced great scrutiny from the public. A Palo Alto Online article cited parents who voted against the measure in hopes of sending a dissatisfied message to the district and school administration, as they believe there have not been sufficient fiscal resources spent ensuring stable mental health amongst students. They disagree with the idea of pouring more money into what they argue is a failing system. Supporters of the tax counter this argument by claiming that there is no way emotional health initiatives will strengthen without additional funding.
In addition, opponents of Measure A may include the demographic of citizens of Palo Alto who do not have students enrolled in the education system, who would not directly benefit from the increase in parcel tax revenue.
How do you vote?
Ballots can be returned by mail using a purple postage-paid return envelope included in the ballot packet. The registrar encourages voters to return their ballots as soon as possible, so that there is enough time to receive all eligible ballots by Election Day. Ballots that are returned in-person must be received by 8 p.m. on May 5. Ballots returned by mail must be postmarked on or before Election Day and must be received by Friday, May 8 (three days after the election).