Paso spurns parcel tax

The Paso Robles school board narrowly rejected a parcel tax initiative that could have brought $2 million to the financially strapped school district. Meanwhile, the Atascadero school district is considering a bond measure to fund new buildings and renovations.

In Paso Robles, the teachers union formally requested a parcel tax Tuesday that would raise $2 million. While the tax was previously thought to cost parcel owners $20 a month, it was revealed that it would only cost a little more than $8 per month.

“I don’t see that as a real onerous burden in order to educate our children,” said Jim Lynett, who heads the teachers union. “That’s a movie a month.”

Facing a $7.4 million budget shortfall, Paso Robles Public Schools recently sent out layoff notices to 66 teachers.

Still, members of the school board want the teachers to show the community they too are willing to sacrifice by agreeing to five furlough days, which would free up about $2 million. The teachers union doesn’t want to reopen its already agreed-upon contract.

“They talked about shared sacrifice, yet they’re not willing to sacrifice anything,” said Joe Quiroz, one of three board members who voted against the parcel tax.

School administrators, he said, have voluntarily accepted furloughs.

The initiative, which would require two-thirds support from the community, was rejected by a 3-2 vote. The other two members were absent.

Lynett hopes this won’t be the last time the board considers the tax. While the board’s vote rules out a June initiative, it could come up again in the November election.

“My gut feeling is that it will come back,” Lynett said, noting that the issue of furloughs will also come up in the next teachers’ contract.

Quiroz said the board is open to reconsidering the tax, though he’s not sure Paso Robles voters will support it — especially because they are facing water rate hikes.

“People hear the word ‘tax,’ and it just doesn’t sit well with them,” he said.

In Atascadero, a 1976 tax override bond to pay for new school district buildings and renovation projects is set to expire next school year.

“The board is considering whether they want to ask the community to extend the support the district has enjoyed since 1976,” Atascadero Unified School District Superintendent John Rogers said.

Funds would be dedicated toward building projects and could not be used for general operating expenses, salary raises or maintenance costs, he added.

A recent community survey conducted by San Francisco firm Dale Scott & Co. appears to support the district’s goals. Of the 400 registered voters surveyed over five days, the majority said they would support a ballot measure.

Rogers said the idea of a parcel tax has not been formally discussed by the school board.

The proposed bond measure will be on the agenda for discussion at the May 4 board meeting in Atascadero.

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