By Sharon Noguchi
Posted: 11/05/2010 07:00:00 PM PDT
Updated: 11/05/2010 10:28:12 PM PDT
When it comes to school taxes, Santa Clara County voters in the past have marched to their own education-boosting drummer, usually amassing the 66.7 percent supermajority required to tax themselves extra for schools.
School leaders counted on the same reception to their pleas this year, hoping voters would approve taxes to help avert drastic cuts to classrooms and libraries and increases in class sizes.
But this week, all three school parcel taxes in tax-friendly Santa Clara County failed, although four bond measures passed. Only two of 18 school parcel taxes statewide passed, among them Fremont Unified School District in next-door Alameda County, which received 69.5 percent of the vote for its first-ever parcel tax.
To obtain approval, Fremont campaigners focused on pounding home their message: Because of recession-induced state budget cuts, the district needed dollars for basics such as reading, math, science and libraries, which last school year were cut 50 percent. They stressed that the district had been a responsible steward of public funds. Not only are test scores rising, but also all the projects promised for a 2002 bond measure were completed on time and under budget.
By contrast, Santa Clara County voters mirrored statewide trends: California voters this week approved 70 percent of school bonds but rejected 89 percent of school parcel taxes. The record was similar in San Mateo County, where the lone parcel tax failed but four school bonds passed.
It’s pretty obvious why this happened – it’s unfair to landlords, other businesses, and retirees who don’t have children that they should be paying for schools. If kids want better schools, their parents should pay out of pocket directly – just like they do in Cupertino and Palo Alto.
Congrats to the Bay Area for finally reaching fiscal sanity. The next step is to divert money from schools into rebating property taxes. After all, what do you get from spending money on kids? Not much. But what about reducing property taxes? Now that’s a smart ROI!