Local school officials are celebrating the passage of a temporary sales and income tax increase that will help fund k-12 education.
Propostion 30 saved San Rafael City Schools from cutting a total of $2.2 million from their high school and elementary school budgets by Jan. 1, 2013. The approval spared the high school district a cut of more than $400,000, and the elementary school district a $1.8 million cut that was equivalent to reducing the school year by 15 days.
"When many people went to bed Tuesday night, they were on pins and needles," San Rafael City School Superintendent Mike Watenpaugh said. "I know I was."
Prop. 30 was approved with 53.9 percent of the vote. In Marin, 68.2 percent of voters were in favor.
Over the past four years, the district has cut $10 million from the school budget. During that time, enrollment grew by over 800 students, according to Watenpaugh. The first years of cuts focused on administration and management positions, as well as increases in class sizes and restrictions on overtime. Bahia Vista, Coleman and Sun Valley elementary schools are all at capacity. Now, Watenpaugh said there are no more low hanging fruit to cut.
"I was so overjoyed that we wouldn't have to begin conversations about cutting the school year," Watenpaugh said. "The thought of reducing school year was chilling."
The proposition increases personal income tax on annual earnings over $250,000 for seven years and increases sales and use tax by quarter-cent for four years. Of the tax revenues, 89 percent will go to K-12 schools and 11 percent will go to community colleges.
Mary Jane Burke, Marin County superintendent of schools, said she is thrilled “unthinkable trigger cuts” have been averted and current funding levels have been stabilized. “We know that fiscal issues will continue, but we also know that in challenging economic times and, in spite of a campaign where incredible resources were devoted to defeating Proposition 30, it is truly a tribute to the voters of our state that they would support the schools and help put our state back on the road to fiscal stability and sanity.”
The San Rafael City School District, which includes the elementary and high schools, would have been more affected than other Marin school districts if Prop. 30 had failed because it’s one of the county’s three "revenue limit" districts (the others are Novato Unified School District and Ross Valley School District). Unlike all the other basic aid districts in the county, which are funded largely through property taxes, the revenue limit districts rely on a larger amount of funds from the state.
Marin’s basic aid districts won’t see any new funds from Proposition 30 but they could have felt a fiscal impact if Proposition 30 had failed in the form of additional so-called "state take-backs" in funding, Burke confirmed.
"There is the potential that Prop. 30 it will not only address the structural challenges with the budget, but that it will begin to restore to funds," Watenpaugh said.
Now with funding restored to a little less than what it was the previous year, the school board will begin to look at one-time expenditures, according to Watenpaugh.
"Our mantra for the past four years has been to hope for the best and plan for the worst," he said.
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