By Victoria Martinez
Voters in the Buellton Union School District will decide Nov. 6 on a tax measure asking for $99 per parcel of land annually for eight years beginning July 1, 2019.
The measure allows exemptions for homeowners who are 65 or older or who receive Supplemental Security Income for a disability.
The district’s school board has initiated the process to raise approximately $250,000 a year to improve STEM and arts programs, bring back a music program, maintain small class sizes, increase student access to technology, preserve reading intervention programs, and expand student health and wellness programs.
Parcel taxes are commonly seen as one of the few ways for school districts in California to increase revenue. Having previously stated that the district would pursue a parcel tax only if results from a feasibility study showed a high percentage of community support, district Superintendent Randal Haggard and the school board were pleasantly surprised in May when the results were highly favorable.
Faced with an 8.5 percent decline in student enrollment and the need for approximately $400,000 in budget cuts as a result, the board and administration spent a good part of the spring dealing with frustrated parents and school employees.
The district receives state funds on the basis of average daily attendance, so “when we lose students, we lose funding,” Haggard has pointed out.
“We essentially lost 8 percent of our (student) population and the revenue that comes with them,” Haggard explained.
During two well-attended town halls and a number of packed school board meetings, parents, teachers and staff members spoke out against the proposed cuts in counseling, intervention services, and classified staff. The district was able to restore small portions of its proposed cuts in both counseling and intervention services.
The district will be providing more information in August as classes resume, and more information about forming a committee to support the initiative, according to Haggard.