New School Tax To Hit Ballot by June 2008

Categories: Government

By Benjamin Wachs

School district officials say that to ensure equality of access to the best programs for all students, San Francisco residents are going to have to pay up.

They don’t know how much, yet, but District Superintendent Carlos Garcia and School Board President Mark Sanchez confirm they’ll be seeking voter approval for a new school tax on the June ballot; three school facilities bonds from '97, '03' and '06 are already in place for the $600 million a year district.

They’re waiting until the Spring, Garcia said, in order to engage with ...

community members and constituency groups about how best to tax – and for how much.

“That still needs to be hashed out,” Garcia said. “We haven’t gotten to a specific dollar amount. The board has given us the directive that should be on the June ballot, and we need to meet with a lot of people, including our unions, to get their input as well.”

Sanchez said that new tax revenues on parcels of land-- not their value -- are most likely to focus on better pay for teachers. The last time the district leveled such a special tax came in 1990 after the earthquake.

“We have a huge turnover of teachers, partly because we don’t compensate them at the rate of other areas,” he said.

Ironically, he added, the need to attract and keep high quality teachers means the board will probably have to keep its tax request low: “if we make it too expensive to live in the city, that only drives teachers out,” he said. The current tax rate (rounded) is .08 cents per $100 dollars value, or 6.75 percent of the city's total property tax rate.

There’s also the question of whether it will be passable: while the board doesn’t need city approval to put a tax measure on the ballot, it does need public support. That means consultations – lots and lots of consultations.

Look for it to come up at Board of Supervisors meetings before the end of the year, and at “town hall” style meetings around the community in early 2008.

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