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Are You Willing to Support Public Schools with a Renewed Parcel Tax?

Residents pay $251 per year on their property taxes toward the Novato Unified School District, but the tax expires in 2015.

Novato's parcel tax to support public schools comes to the end of its six-year run in 2015.

Knowing how much our schools are hurting because of economic uncertainty in Sacramento, would you be up for another one?

Maybe you didn't look at the details when you paid your property taxes this spring, but it's $251 per year per property.

Some might say that's money well spent and they could afford a little bit more to contribute to the education of our children, one of the highest priorities in our society.

Some might say times are so tough that it's an awful time to renew any taxes.

FYI, seniors 65 and over don't pay the tax.

The discussed the topic in a board workshop Thursday and heard from a few experts about a feasibility assessment for a new parcel tax, said district spokeswoman Leslie Benjamin. She said the tax revenue brings in about $4.2 million annually for NUSD, which amounts to about 8 percent of the district's operating budget.

"It's an integral piece of our funding," she said. "... Who knows what's going to happen in Sacramento?"

The May 1 school board agenda will include an item about the parcel tax feasibility assessment. Although it's very early in the process, why not share your thoughts right now voting in our unscientific poll and adding a comment below?

Bill April 30, 2012 at 07:09 PM
Seniors are only exempt from this parcel tax if they ask for exemption; it is not automatic. I do not believe the article covers Gov. Moonbeam's proposed 1% to 1.5% sales tax increase that is to be on the November ballot and is supposed negate any further funding cuts to schools by the State. The City of Novato opted to build new city offices downtown. I say this was done instead of funding the schools. Actually, "we" didn't make this decision; it was done by City Council without voter approval.
Cathy April 30, 2012 at 07:47 PM
What are the parcel taxes paying for at NUSD? If it's teacher salaries and other continuing expenses related to educating children, MAINTENANCE of the school buildings....fine...I'd vote to continue it. If it's to fund more extravagant infrastructure like that Taj Mahal gymnasium that is out of scale to the school and yet ANOTHER baseball field (completed last Spring). What are the priorities of the NUSD? And what is the parcel tax paying for? A little more information would be appreciated.
Steve April 30, 2012 at 08:40 PM
Measure A, passed in 2009, provided a 6-year continuation of the existing parcel tax, plus an additional $96. The purpose as set out in the measure: "To protect Novato schools from damaging state budget cuts, provide stable local funding that can’t be taken away by the state and preserve quality education by minimizing further teacher and staff layoffs, keeping school libraries open, limiting class size increases, and maintaining competitive science, math and other programs, shall Novato Unified School District increase the existing school parcel tax by $96 per parcel for 6 years, with a senior exemption, independent oversight and no money for administrator salaries?"
Sylvia Barry April 30, 2012 at 08:51 PM
Please note that Measure A+ for Kids was drafted with the 2009 and on budget in mind. I don't think most anticipated the types of budget cuts we have experienced since. I also want to mention that my younger son graduated from San Marin High in 2010, so I don't have kids in NUSD schools anymore.
Sylvia Barry April 30, 2012 at 08:55 PM
I think we need to be careful when we comment on this very important topic which affects our kids/students greatly! Mixing school funding with how City of Novato handles AH issue, management of city funds, city buildings, etc. only inflames; does not address the issue in hand. Having sit on San Marin Site Leadership Team for a few years prior (two years ago, so my information is outdated), one thing I did learn is that the schools have very strict rules that they have to follow when allocating funds - each category of fund was used for a very specific purpose. The funds can not be co-mingled if it's designated for a certain usage. The following is what I found for Measure A+ for Kids (2009) - "If passed, Measure A will provide stable local funding to: • Minimize layoffs of qualified, experienced teachers • Avoid significant increases in class size • Maintain science and math programs • Maintain computers and classroom technology • Keep school libraries open • Protect programs that prepare students for college and good jobs • Protect music, art, and athletics programs By law, all funds from Measure A must stay in Novato to support our schools. The funds can not be taken away by the State and an Independent Citizen’s Oversight Committee will monitor expenditures to ensure that the funds are spent as voters intended."
Dave Robertson April 30, 2012 at 08:57 PM
Governments use the schools as pawn in a "tax and spend" game. People want to pay tax for schools, but not so much for "extravagant" government services. So we pay and pay - but schools always seem to be the last on the "upgrade" list. It's bad enough that in California we have a 9.3%-10.3% (top) tax rate, but also one of the highest sales taxes in the country - and people want to raise that even higher. How many exorbitant pensions and health plans to we have to pay for at all levels of government? How many excess civil servants do we have on our city, county, and state payrolls? And what do we get for all these monies paid? Governments that want to follow their own agenda - not that of the people. After all of this, the schools seem to get the dregs left over after our cities, counties, and state seems to finish their spending spree. California has one of the highest state income and sales taxes in the country. What do they do with all this money. Prop 13 holds property tax down, but our valuations are much higher than the national average. The bottom line is that our government spends way too much money - and the schools are last on their list. We need to fix the priorities of spending before we ask for more money.
Roger May 01, 2012 at 01:30 AM
Marla: You once said AH is like other non-profits like churches in that they don't pay some taxes, which taxes are those? You said we don't limit the number of churches not paying their full community burden, so why limit AH units.
Mark Schoenbaum May 01, 2012 at 01:42 AM
when they take on bloated administrative salaries along with overgenerous benefits and pensions on all employees then I will consider extending a parcel tax. until then my answer is no.
Eleanor Sluis May 01, 2012 at 02:03 AM
I vote to continue the tax, as do many seniors, who do not opt out. We know that the investment in our children pays dividends in future healthy, responsible citizens. At the same time we know that property values and aesthetics of a city increases with a highly educated involved public. Please continue supporting Novato's schools. Thanks for your consideration.
SHROYER FOR SUPERVISOR 2014 May 01, 2012 at 03:41 AM
Hi Marla Fields, I would like to see the tax records of the Warner Creek Project to see if their 61 units will pay school parcel taxes per unit. I question that. The Wyndover Apartments do not pay school parcel taxes on each of their 136 units, they only pay per building. The Wyndover Apartments has 4 buildings: 805, 809, 815 and 819 Diablo Blvd for a total of 136 units. The Wyndover Apartments does not pay ANY school bonds, and only a mere school parcel tax of $251.00 PER YEAR for only 4 buildings---hardly paying their fair share of the schools infrastructure, yet using it. Fairfield Residential, owners of The Wyndover Apartments make approx up to 2 million a year off of the low income project without paying any real estate taxes and contributing a paultry $1,004 a year to Novato Schools. We need to have nonprofit housing financially contributing to our schools. Fairfield Residential can more than afford to give to the NUSD, but don't. Has anyone seen Fairfield Residential as a donor to School Fuel?
SHROYER FOR SUPERVISOR 2014 May 01, 2012 at 03:56 AM
Hi Sylvia, Thank you for your support of the Novato Public Schools even after your children have graduated from them! Thank you for all you do! I do think it is important to address the AH issue with the public schools as nonprofit housing does not pay any real estate taxes which includes not paying any School Bonds. This does affect our public schools. We do need to have nonprofit housing contribute to our public schools. This can be done. Paul Fordham at Homeward Bound is looking into how their new project can "give back" or support Hamilton's Elementary School. This could be a win-win for all. It is people like Paul Fordham that make successful affordable housing models for the community and for the schools. We need more Paul Fordham's who are really trying to helping the poor, the schools and the community, not Fairfield Residential's who are making millions off the backs of them.
Sylvia Barry May 01, 2012 at 03:58 AM
Thank you, Eleanor, for your support and thanks to the other seniors who realize how important education is to our city and our society and decide to continue to invest in our future. I have heard many other senior citizens who express the same view and I really appreciate your mentioning that.
Maria Escobar May 01, 2012 at 04:08 AM
I will vote for the parcel tax if Dr. Cunnigham donates the difference from what she is making now ($190,000) from the job she was recruited from ($150,000) to School Fuel (that is $40,000 more than many people in Novato make a year). I also think Cunningham should donate a hub cap off of her Beemer to the next Novato School Raffle
Maria Escobar May 01, 2012 at 04:11 AM
Hi Roger, Marla fails to mention that churches do not have people living in their pews and churches don't have high risk children housed in them which would be going into the public schools Big difference between churches and AH.
Sylvia Barry May 01, 2012 at 04:12 AM
Addressing the issue to make sure all entities contribute to our public schools is fine. However, to use that as the reason to not support the schools and to vote against what is direly needed for our students and schools is what is not fine with me. This is what I am seeing with some of the comments here. At what price is one willing to pay to make one's point is what one needs to think long and hard about,.
Sylvia Barry May 01, 2012 at 04:12 AM
Tony - addressing the issue to make sure all entities contribute to our public schools is fine. However, to use that as the reason to not support the schools and to vote against what is direly needed for our students and schools is what is not fine with me. This is what I am seeing with some of the comments here. At what price is one willing to pay to make one's point is what one needs to think long and hard about,.
SHROYER FOR SUPERVISOR 2014 May 01, 2012 at 05:32 AM
Silvia, I never said I would not support the school tax. I actually phone banked 17 nights on A+ for schools on the last school parcel tax that barely passed. I am a big supporter of School Fuel and know you are too. I am just bringing out the fact that nonprofit housing does not pay real estate taxes or school bonds which further burdens our schools.
Susan Wernick May 01, 2012 at 05:42 AM
Not that I support it, but the sales tax proposal by Governor Brown is for 1/2%, not 1 to 1.5%.
Tamkea Washington May 01, 2012 at 06:05 AM
What Novato's City Council and NUSD don't do is look for solutions other than--- tax and spend, tax and spend. The middle class in Novato is being bled to death.
Sylvia Barry May 01, 2012 at 06:34 AM
From what I read, this would be a continuation of the current tax which is scheduled to expire in 2015. This is not a new tax or an additional tax.
Carol May 01, 2012 at 06:18 PM
!!!!LIKE!!!!! (I wish there is a "like" option) I don't understand why government jobs are considered "public service" that get generous benefits and pensions when the majority of duties/positions are essentially the same as those in the private business. I get the police, fire and military are truly serving us by putting themselves at risk...but the administrative part of government that doesn't go out in the field!?!? They're doing a "job" just like you and me!!! Why are they ENTITLED to pensions? Pensions and Unions are killing our economy. Plain and simple!!! And what about that darn new city hall??? Now??? Really??? They threaten to cut back schools/fire/police, but think it's ok to build a lavish city hall. Is anyone out their paying attention?
Mark Schoenbaum May 01, 2012 at 06:49 PM
When an EXPIRING tax is renewed, it is a NEW tax. I always thought you were smarter than that, parroting the rhetoric is not a sign of original thought.
Kathy May 02, 2012 at 03:09 AM
A good education for our children is one of the most important things for the future of our country (and our property values). I am in favor of paying the $251/year and consider it money well spent.
Tina McMillan May 31, 2012 at 03:24 AM
Hogwash. We are a low wealth district. The other districts that get more money are basic aid. That means our property taxes are insufficient to cover the costs associated with our school district. Parcel taxes are only a tiny portion of property taxes and not sufficient to cover the costs of educating children in Novato. There was no window and we let nothing get by. http://www.llesd.k12.ca.us/EEE_Alvarezfieldproject.pdf http://www.evergreentimes.com/072904/pub_edu.htm
janna nikkola July 16, 2012 at 02:47 AM
This is an example of what happened with any "temporary" tax or budget item -- they're never "temporary". When they expire, they're renewed, and every public "official" knows this. It's easier to get a budget item approved if they call it "temporary", knowing it's also easier to get it extended when it expires. We can expect this to happen with the "temporary" increase in the City of Novato's sales tax. When the initial "temporary" term expires, it will be extended.
Bob Ratto July 16, 2012 at 03:01 AM
Janna "We can expect this to happen with the "temporary" increase in the City of Novato's sales tax. When the initial "temporary" term expires, it will be extended." No, it won't, if I can find the time to stop it. The simple math is: you have a budget, you need to live within it, the City does not choose to do so, and that needs to be corrected. At some point, you really must just say "enough".
Roger Smith October 01, 2012 at 02:38 AM
I can remember the days when the Administration consisted of Bob Whitt (Superintendent) and Paul Mobley (Asst Superintendent), who ran the District from a portable building at 1015 7th street. It was during a time when school enrollment was highest and schools like Marion and West Novato were active. Now school sites have been closed and sold off. The current Superintendent makes a salary ($195,000) that rivals the Governor of California ($212,000).
Roger Smith October 01, 2012 at 02:41 AM
The rank and file, Certificated (teachers) and Classified (support workers like secretaries, bus drivers, etc) have, for good reason, called the new office building on 7th Street the "Ivory Palace". Why you ask. Because every time you turn around the Administration, in league with, the Board of Trustees has created a new Director position. The second floor of the Ivory Palace is stuffed with Directors with various titles being paid huge salaries, while the rank and file, who have not had a raise in three years, recently received a paultry 1%. Years ago the sales tax was original passed because it was going to fund public education.
Roger Smith October 01, 2012 at 02:41 AM
In later years the lottery was passed because it was going to help fund education. Prop 13, "The Tax Payers Rebellion" was passed because the citizens of California had enough of government wasteful spending. Even under Prop 13, passed in 1978, base year values could still be increased 2% per year. By now, 34 years later, tax revenue has steadily increased. The negative impact of Prop 13 on schools is now minimal and should not be used as a excuse. The problem with NUSD is exhorbitant and ineffective spending resulting in extremely top heavy management.
Roger Smith October 01, 2012 at 02:42 AM
I can remember when the first lottery monies were received by NUSD and most of it went to salaries and very little ended up in the classroom. Then came the State Deferred Maintenance program initiated to breath new life into the degenerating public school infrastructure. The state would match dollar for dollar what a local school district would expend for improving their buildings. As a result of this major cash inflow NUSD repainted, reroofed, replaced aging HVAC equipment and other extensive projects, but still classroom size and educational program funding continued to be an issue. Don't kid yourself, NUSD is fiscally irresponsible and has been for years. They may cover it up with all sorts of lofty goals, cloaked in glorious language, that merely result in the creation of another overpaid Director position with an office on the second floor.

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