South Bay voters to decide extending taxes for schools
A ballot drop box in Santa Clara County is pictured in this file photo.

Parcel taxes for schools and library services are about to expire in two local school districts. Residents will decide in a special election next month whether to extend them.

In the Berryessa Union School District, Measure A would renew a $79 parcel tax to maintain its level of services for the next eight years.

“This is to support teachers, our library and media technicians,” Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Kevin Franklin told San José Spotlight. “We also use the funds to pay for social workers… It’s specific to those items, and not for anything else.”

Voters approved the Berryessa Union parcel tax in 2008 and renewed it in 2012. Last year, $1 million in revenue paid the salaries of eight math and science teachers. Library services received about $419,000 from the tax and it paid for one counselor position at $163,000. The parcel tax has generated about $1.8 million per year for Berryessa schools.

If the measure fails, those positions, as well as school libraries, might get eliminated, Franklin said.

Los Gatos Union School District’s Measure B would increase its parcel tax to $335 from $290, an increase of $45. If approved, the rate will also increase by 2% annually for the next eight years. District officials did not respond to requests for comment.

That tax was first approved by voters in 1990 at $180 per parcel tax.

The higher tax would generate $3.2 million annually for Los Gatos schools, an increase of $500,000. The parcel tax has been in place for 30 years and hasn’t increased since 2002, according to the district.

The dollars fund 23 teaching positions, 82% of whom teach reading, writing, math and science, according to district documents. If Measure B fails, 15% of the district’s teachers may have to be laid off, according to a district memo.

The measure’s failure could “potentially increase class sizes and limit the ability of schools to provide mental health services, art programs and academic electives,” according to a district memo.

Both Los Gatos and Berryessa school districts decided to hold a special election in November to avoid a potential funding gap. The parcel taxes for both districts are set to expire June 30, 2022. If the school districts wait until the primary election on June 7, and the measures are defeated, they could be left scrambling to resolve the shortfall.

Mark Hinkle, president of the Silicon Valley Taxpayers Association, opposes both ballot measures. His group routinely opposes tax increases in the South Bay.

“Schools, like every other thing, should be judged based on their merits, and when they are subpar, you don’t reward subpar behavior,” Hinkle told San José Spotlight, citing that 21.9% of students in Los Gatos were below grade level in English while 23.5% were behind in math in the 2018-19 school year.

In Berryessa schools, 35% of students were behind in English and 41.7% were behind in math that same school year, Hinkle added. “And yet, they want more money.”

Franklin, the Berryessa Union district leader, said it’s not fair to judge student performance using data from just one year. Since the state made changes to standardized testing in 2013, he said, Berryessa schools have made improvements.

“We’re not at the lower end with our test scores, and our test scores have been increasing,” Franklin said.

Both measures require a two-thirds majority to pass. If approved, they would expire in eight years. Seniors and those who rely on disability checks are eligible for exemption from the parcel taxes, according to the measures’ information guide.

Santa Clara County began mailing out ballots to active registered voters this week, and early voting is underway. As of Thursday, 45,709 ballots have been sent out for Measure A, and 20,697 went out for Measure B, said Ryan Aralar, spokesperson for the county Registrar of Voters.

Residents in these districts have until Oct. 19 to register to vote. The last day to request a replacement ballot is Oct. 26.

Click here for more information on the measures and where to cast ballots.

Contact Tran Nguyen at [email protected] or follow @nguyenntrann on Twitter. 

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