ALAMEDA (CBS / AP) — In a closely watched election, Alameda residents are voting Tuesday on a local property tax that school officials say is needed to avert widespread teacher layoffs and campus closures on the island city.
Alameda is one of at least four California districts holding parcel-tax elections Tuesday to raise money for cash-strapped schools. More school districts are planning to follow suit later this year as they prepare for deep cuts in state funding.
Alameda is voting on Measure A less than a year after a similar measure fell just short of the two-thirds majority required to approve a parcel tax.
If Measure A is approved, Alameda property owners will pay some of the highest school parcel taxes in California.
The ballot measure would tax each parcel at a rate of 32 cents per square foot of building space and cap the maximum tax at $7,999. For example, the owner of a 2,000-square foot home would pay $640 a year in school taxes.
Measure A, which would replace two existing parcel taxes, would raise about $12 million annually to maintain small class sizes, high school athletics, Advanced Placement classes and after-school programs, among other things.
If it doesn’t pass, Alameda school officials say the 9,500-student district will be forced to close several schools, lay off teachers and school employees, and increase K-3 class sizes to 32 students per class.
Measure A supporters say those cuts will drive away families, hurt property values and change the character of Alameda, which is known for its strong neighborhood schools.
“The cuts to the school system will be relatively catastrophic,” said Michael Robles-Wong, who chairs the Yes on A campaign. “Right now we have great schools, and they are in fact one of the things that people move to Alameda for.”
But opponents say Measure A’s $7,999 cap benefits large property owners at the expense of homeowners and small business owners.
“It favors big businesses at the expense of the little guy,” said David Howard, an organizer for the No on A campaign.
Howard said the school district needs to cut costs and operate more efficiently.
“With their tax, they’re trying to fund the status quo, which is not sustainable in today’s world,” Howard said.
Other school parcel tax elections are being held Tuesday in the Brisbane Elementary School District, Santa Clara Unified School District and Tahoe Truckee Unified School District.
If approved, school parcel taxes would increase $23 in Brisbane and $37 in Tahoe Truckee. Santa Clara property owners would pay $19 per parcel.
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