Almanac

News - May 4, 2011

Election 2011: Ravenswood district faces critical parcel tax decision

by Chris Kenrick

Voters in eastern Menlo Park and East Palo Alto who are in the Ravenswood City School District have an important parcel tax measure on the May 3 ballot.

Measure B asks voters to renew an existing tax of $98 a year per parcel and to add $98, bringing the total annual tax to $196 per parcel. If passed, the measure would generate about $1.2 million for the district.

This is a mail-only election. For ballots to be counted, they must arrive by 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 3, at the San Mateo County Elections Office.

Passage of the tax, which requires approval by two-thirds of the voters, would help dig the school district out of a disastrous budget hole, supporters said.

The specter of class sizes rising from 20 to as high as 30 — or five to 10 "furlough days" in which schools would close — haunts the district if some of the possible budget scenarios come true.

Currently, the district is planning for a $3.2 million — or 17 percent — cut to its $18 million unrestricted operating budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year, district Business Manager Megan Curtis said.

In addition, the district receives about $22 million in highly targeted federal and state "categorical funds" to address specific conditions, including poverty and English language learning.

The budget-cut assumptions are based on the $330-per-student reduction in state funds envisioned by Gov. Jerry Brown in January, Ms. Curtis said.

She will have more information when Gov. Brown unveils the next iteration of a state budget, known as the May revise.

She has heard rumors that per-student cuts could be as high as $500 to $1,000, requiring far more drastic local adjustments, she said.

About 80 percent of Ravenswood students are considered low-income. Sixty-one percent are English language learners, and about 30 percent of students each year are new enrollees, according to the Ravenswood Education Foundation.

Community members have been working through phone banks and local churches to boost support for Measure B, said Aaron Williamson, who is a math teacher, a district-wide math teaching coach, and president of the Ravenswood Teachers Association.

"In the interests of students, we don't want to cut any of the school year away," Mr. Williamson said. "Also, increasing class size is especially difficult in a district like ours because we have full inclusion for special education students. There is no special day (separate) class."

ELECTION INFORMATION

To be counted, ballots in the all-mail May 3 election must be received at the San Mateo County Elections Office by 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 3. Voters can also vote in person at a county elections office: 40 Tower Road in San Mateo, or 555 County Government Center in Redwood City. Mail-in ballots may be dropped off at any city hall in the county during regular business hours.

All voters in the county can vote to fill the District 1 seat on the county Board of Supervisors, vacated when Mark Church was elected chief elections officer, assessor and recorder. The candidate who receives the most votes will be elected to fill the remainder of his term, which ends in January 2013.

For more information, go to these websites:

• shapethefuture.org (the county Elections Office site).

CharStyle:bullet>n smartvoter.org (the League of Women Voters site).

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