As Portola Valley students begin to file into classrooms next week for the start of the school year, school board members will start to evaluate the process for renewing of a parcel tax that district officials say is necessary to keep current programs afloat.
At a Wednesday, Aug. 14, meeting, San Francisco-based consulting firm TBWB Strategies will report to the Portola Valley School District's board on the process for putting soon-to-expire Measure O on the ballot sometime in 2020.
The parcel tax generates about $1.2 million annually and "must be renewed" to maintain classroom programs and teaching staff, district officials said in a June staff report.
Over the next few regular meetings, the board will need to decide on whether to call for a renewal of the measure, which expires in June 2021, according to a staff report. The board will also need to decide if it wants to keep the same per-parcel tax rate or change it, according to the report.
The TBWB Strategies presentation states that first the district would need to explore the feasibility of renewal by polling community members. The district would also explore the political landscape, competing issues and potential controversy, according to TBWB. The district would then talk to constituents about a renewal measure, consultant's report says.
The firm provides timelines for putting the measure on March, May, June or November 2020 ballots. To put the measure on the March 3 ballot, school board members would need to call for an election by Dec. 6, according to the consultant.
But a March ballot would limit the district's time for communication, public outreach and ballot measure development; if the board were to decide on a November ballot measure, the firm could conduct a public opinion tracking poll, the consultant notes.
At the meeting, the board will consider hiring TBWB to carry out strategy and communications to manage the renewal effort. The firm would charge $5,000 per month for up to seven months (for a total of $35,000) for a November election, according to a staff report.
The district chose TBWB Strategies on July 23 for preliminary consulting work because of its "knowledge of the district and community, (its) experience and volume of public agency clients, and fee structure," according to a district staff report. TBWB has worked with the nearby Ravenswood City, Redwood City and Palo Alto Unified school districts, according to the firm's website.
The board will also review a contract, not to exceed $26,200, for Burlingame-based Godbe Research to survey constituents on a parcel tax renewal measure. Godbe Research was the district's pollster for past measures, all successful, according to a staff report.
Passed in 2013, Measure O raises revenue that goes toward advanced math, science and technology programs; reading and writing programs; art and music programs; reduced class size; and retention of teachers, according to the district website.
Measure O consolidated two expiring measures: Measure C ($290 per parcel) and Measure D ($168 per parcel) and increased the rate by $123 per parcel to $581, district Chief Business Officer Connie Ngo said.
Also on the meeting agenda, Adam Lint, the district's bond and facilities director, will update the board on districtwide construction projects. Some of the projects are funded by Measure Z, a $49.5 million bond passed last November to pay for school repairs and renovations, Lint said.
This summer, the district started with smaller-scale projects that total about $700,000, according to a district staff presentation from May.
At Ormondale School, architects expect to finish developing the schematic designs for new classroom buildings and courtyard renovations in September, according to a staff report.
At Corte Madera School, the district is considering proposals for a fault trench that will take about a month to complete. The school is located just inside a fault zone as indicated by the California Geological Survey, Lint said.
"This mandates that we must investigate the location in which a new building will be placed and verify that there are no trace faults within the area of the new building," he said. The only sure-fire way to confirm this is to trench and map the walls of the trench."
Workers also removed non-native pine trees that were not maintained along Frog Pond Park, which borders the school. There were also dry rot and fencing repairs.
Workers completed landscaping improvements over the summer. One challenge facing the project: Deer ate all of the newly planted shrub roses, so a change was made to replace the roses with a similar ﬂowering shrub that is "deer proof," according to the report. Tree trimming, asphalt repairs and fencing repairs were also completed.
Workers also restored fields districtwide. They also installed energy management systems for HVAC units, Lint said. They were installed only in buildings that are not slated to be demolished in the next couple of years, according to a staff report.
The district has nearly completed updating lighting to longer-lasting LED bulbs. The lighting and HVAC projects cost about $227,000, which comes from state funding for energy efficiency projects, according to a district presentation.
The school board meets in open session at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 14, at Corte Madera School, Room 102, 4575 Alpine Road in Portola Valley. View the full meeting agenda here.