The pain of preparing to cut eight full-time equivalent teaching positions in the Scotts Valley Unified School District (SVUSD) next year seemed to make the “rubber hit the road” in planning for a parcel tax measure on the November ballot , according to District Superintendent Tanya Krause.
“We have a really desperate situation here,” said Superintendent Krause. “We’ve built award-winning schools with an amazingly supportive parent community, but parent contributions are just not enough to maintain the special programs and supports we’ve built into our schools,” Krause said. “With projected budget shortfalls, we have nowhere else to go but to the community for approval of the parcel tax,” Krause added.
Derek Timm, CEO of the Scotts Valley Education Foundation, addressed the School Board at their meeting on March 13. Referring to another “Save Our Schools” campaign promoting the adoption of another parcel tax measure, Timm said, ““We’re getting the band back together, but it’s not necessarily a happy reunion- given the circumstances.”
“We know we cannot change the funding we get from the state, and the state has given us a bad hand,” Timm told the school board. Timm reported the SVUSD district ranks ninth from the bottom out of 344 school districts in the state in terms of funding. However, due to widespread and consistent support from parents and the community, SVUSD has had award-winning schools.
Primarily due to declining enrollment and declining state funding, the SVUSD was prepared to cut 8.6 FTE positions- impacting and reducing several educational services and elective course offerings throughout the district next school year. Fortunately, due to retirements and teachers agreeing to re-assignments to different schools and classes, less than one FTE position was cut, with only two teachers having their hours cut.
“Nonetheless,” Superintendent Krause point out, “We will have nine fewer positions next school year, which will impact or reduce several programs we would like to maintain.” One of those programs scheduled for “restructuring” is the Academy Program at ScottsValleyMiddle School.
Although the proposed parcel tax has been under discussion since last June, issuing the actual lay-off notices and negotiating with the Teacher’s Association served to “enforce the urgent need” for the additional revenues, according to Chief Business Official Rudolf Ramirez. At the March 13th Board Meeting, Ramirez presented a “2nd Interim Budget 2017-18 and Multi Year Projections,” detailing the deficit spending projected in the next few years without the proposed parcel tax.
Under discussion is something like a repeat of Measure K that tacked on $48 to property tax bills in ScottsValley for three years, that was overwhelmingly approved by ScottsValley voters in June, 2012. Measure K expired in 2015, and the school district now finds itself in dire financial straits again.
A poll of 203 Scotts Valley citizens chosen at random last fall showed a clear majority (59 percent) rated the overall job the SVUSD was doing as “excellent/good”, and 50 percent responded that the SVUSD did an “excellent/good” job at spending taxpayer’s money over the years. Of concern to district officials is the low percentage of respondents who understood the critical need for additional revenue to maintain existing programs and levels of service to students. Only 43 percent of respondents agreed with the statement “Without this (additional) money, the District will need to cut teachers and staff and reduce programs.”
Since this is already happening, and in light of the “high bar” of a two-thirds majority vote required to approve a local tax, district officials discussed various features of the parcel tax measure that will need to finalized relatively soon for the tax measure to be included on the November ballot. These features include the actual per parcel tax amount, if seniors will be able to “opt-out” of the property tax, and the length of time the tax measure should be in effect.