BY EMILY MIBACH
Daily Post Staff Writer
The Menlo Park City School Board has voted to put a parcel tax renewal on a November ballot, with the possibility of switching to another date if Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recall winds up on the same ballot.
The concern is that those who would vote in the recall election might be predisposed to rejecting a school tax.
The board voted 4-0, with board member David Ackerman absent, on Thursday to put the 12-year $598 per-parcel measure on the ballot and hand off the campaign to a parent volunteer group.
But if the recall of Newsom ends up on the November ballot, the board said it would reconsider whether to move the parcel tax to another election date.
The board’s political consultant, John Whitehurst, told the school board March 23 that recalls motivate angry voters to return ballots.
“It’s not red-versus-blue anymore, but anger-versus-non-anger. And it clouds who turns out,” Whitehurst cautioned the board.
Ironically, one of the reasons Newsom faces is a recall is that he acquiesced to teachers unions and was slow to reopen schools.
If the board skips the November election, it will likely hold a special election in March or June of 2022.
This would not be the first time a school board walked back its decision to put a tax measure on the ballot. Palo Alto school board last March voted to postpone its parcel tax measure because of the uncertainty of Covid. The board ended up placing the measure on the November 2020 ballot, and it passed.
The Menlo Park board has been looking at the idea of putting a parcel tax on the ballot before its previously approved tax, Measure X, expires in 2024.
The average teacher salary was $106,986 for the 2017-18 school year, the most recent data available, according to EdData. The district has 2,968 students and 188 teachers, EdData’s research shows.
The need for this new tax is to help balance the district’s budget amid $1.5 million in cuts and increases in pay for teachers and other employees. About 89% of the district’s budget is spent on employees, according to a report from Superintendent Erik Burmeister. This new tax will bring in about $4.6 million a year.
The roughly 3,000-student district covers parts of Menlo Park, west Menlo Park and Atherton. Its four schools are Encinal, Laurel, Oak Knoll and Hillview Middle School.