Over the Hill

Our schools’ health worth $8 parcel tax

I’m a Paso Robes voter, and I’d probably vote yes for an $8-per-month parcel tax for our schools.

For a few years now, I’ve been dimly aware that California schools are fighting off financial starvation. But that information was just part of my background noise, along with Mexican drug wars and Tiger’s follies.

Then I read last week in The Tribune that the Paso Robles school board had slashed many jobs and programs from the coming school year’s budget, which still isn’t balanced.

I attended school in ancient times. It’s also been more than 35 years since our kids graduated from Paso Robles High School. So I’m ignorant of modern educational practices.

But I can still walk, so I could grasp the implications of the board’s slashing of school bus routes.

In the coming school year, many more Paso Robles pupils will have to walk. School buses will no longer pick up kindergarten through fifth-grade children within three miles of school.

And they won’t pick up older children within five miles.

The average adult can walk three miles in an hour or a little less. I wonder how long it’ll take an easily distracted 5-year-old kindergartener. And 5-year-olds can also be careless crossing streets.

Walking five miles might take older children an hour and a half.

But shrinking the bus routes wasn’t the biggest slash in the budget. It’s just easiest for me to understand. It might save $120,000. The total amount the board slashed from the budget was $4.4 million.

The big slashes involved eliminating teachers and increasing class sizes. And still another $750,000 remains to be slashed away.

Other positions that were cut include librarians, counselors and custodians. The board also eliminated coaching pay and cut other programs, such as music and performing arts.

The district’s income for the coming school year is expected to be millions of dollars short of what is wanted. The reasons for that shortfall are complicated. But basically school officials say the state has been reducing funding since the 2007-08 school year. They also point out the state controls 84 per cent of the district’s revenue.

A parcel tax was proposed earlier this year — $8 per month on every real estate parcel in the district. The school trustees rejected it last month on a 3-2 vote with two trustees absent. It would have appeared on the June ballot. If two-thirds of the voters concurred, it could have raised about $2 million per year.

If the school board reconsiders it for the November ballot, I think I’ll vote yes.

Contact Phil Dirkx at phild2008@sbcglobal.net or 238-2372.