Voters in the Palo Alto school district will be polled this month on their attitudes toward renewal of a school parcel tax.
The current tax, a $493-per-parcel yearly assessment backed by 74 percent of voters in June 2005, expires in 2011. The $9.3 million it raises each year comprises six percent of the school district's $154 million operating budget.
Community volunteers and school board members Tuesday met with political consultant Charles Heath to toss around alternatives on a possible amount to seek for a tax renewal, an election date, whether a new tax should be flat-rate or graduated, how long it should last and the pros and cons of mail-in versus traditional balloting.
Those decisions will be guided by results of the voter poll, according to Heath, who is with the Tramutola firm specializing in political consulting for public agencies, private organizations and candidates.
Referring to state budget cuts and the economic recession, Superintendent Kevin Skelly said the district faces new challenges not present in 2005, the the existing parcel tax was approved.
"The ground has changed underneath us. We know we've got a really large and growing structural deficit that we've got to address. How painful would it be for the average taxpayer to do some of these things?" Skelly said.
"We need to get some survey data. The bottom line is we want to win, and we need to know what the public thinks."
Community leaders from several past school-funding campaigns, including Gunn parent Kathy Schroeder, Planning and Transportation Vice-Chair Samir Tuma, and Utilities Advisory Commission member Jon Foster, participated in Tuesday's meeting.
Once the school board authorizes a measure for the ballot, the campaign must be carried out by community volunteers.
Further discussion of the issue will be put on the agenda for the board's Sept. 22 meeting, Skelly said. The board must act by December to meet the deadline for a March 2010 election, or by December 2010 for a March 2011 election date.