The failure of Measure Y in March 2017 spelled the end of a 2010 $209 a year parcel tax that provided about $7 million of the San Mateo-Foster City Elementary School District’s $100 million budget.
The district has been aching to get that money back since and have faced some tough choices. Core programs and staffing levels are in peril without the extra revenue and the district is now asking voters for a $298 parcel tax through Measure V. Baked into the measure is money for teacher raises, but exactly how much is still subject to dispute between administrators and the teaching union. If this measure fails, look for the relationship to be further strained. And the end result will be a loss for the primary focus of the school district — which is educating the more than 12,000 students in San Mateo and Foster City.
But the bottom line is that the district is facing a $5 million structural deficit, and the $10 million a year the tax will generate will solve that and help retain the core programs on which so many in the district rely.
Though nothing has been decided, that could mean counseling, physical education and electives. In this day and age and in this area, having a school district contemplating such things as extras is no longer tenable.
And yet the opponents to this measure parade out the oft-repeated mantras like “don’t reward failure” and “make do with less.” In a perfect world, sure. But in this world, in which school funding is as complicated as an Italian language manual for a fighter jet, and can turn just as quickly depending on unstable sources of revenue and the whims of Sacramento, not having a stable source of local revenue just doesn’t make sense.
The funding for teacher salaries in an area facing an atmospheric cost of living and programs for our children is not an experiment with which to be tinkered.
This measure replaces and adds to a measure that provided a balm after the Great Recession which dropped school funding to scarce levels and that is only just getting back to levels prior to the greatest financial crisis this nation has seen in decades.
The San Mateo-Foster City Elementary School District is large and also incredibly diverse, with pockets of affluence and areas with low-income families struggling to make ends meet. While some school communities have the ability and wherewithal to raise money for lost programming, less affluent school communities are at a disadvantage — which would create inequity within the school district with less opportunity for the district to plug those gaps.
Now is not the time to cut. Measure V is an investment. Vote yes.