District pursues $11 parcel tax
Measure to raise operational funding
Published: Thursday, May 10, 2012
Updated: Thursday, May 10, 2012 15:05
For the first time since it was created in 1949, the district is pursuing a countywide parcel tax measure expected to generate around $3.8 million in operations funding annually for five years if passed by voters on Nov. 6.
The district Governing Board agreed that an $11 parcel tax is a viable option for the November ballot after it analyzed the results of a telephone survey done by a contracted research firm. The tax must pass by a two-thirds vote. Of the 1,201 constituents surveyed, 72 percent favored the parcel tax. The results exceeded what was expected of the tax, EMC Research Principal Alex Evans said.
The results showed countywide support for the tax, which would charge taxpayers an additional $11 per parcel, or plot of land, on their property taxes each year from Jan. 1, 2013 until Dec. 31, 2017. There are approximately 350,000 parcels in the county, Evans said.
The survey results also showed less support than expected for a separate $255 million general obligation bond, which would give money to each of the district’s five campuses for facility upgrades.
A bond only needs 55 percent approval to pass. Of those surveyed, 65 percent showed liking for the initiative, less than what the district hoped for on the questionnaire, Evans said. The district decided to not go for the bond measure because the tax measure saw more favorable results.
“It’s not as popular as the parcel tax, (which) is a more critical need,” Evans said.
The parcel tax only funds general operations such as course section offerings, vocational programs and student services. It would not cover the salaries and benefits of any employees in the district.
The district must prepare and adopt a resolution for the November election in June and July respectively. Cost to put the measure on the ballot cannot come out of the district’s operating budget, Governing Board Trustee John Márquez said. Instead, the district must campaign and raise funds through local companies and agencies and hire a separate contractor to manage the process.
“Community colleges are really just starting to investigate parcel taxes as an option,” Evans said.
Alameda County residents will vote on a $48 parcel tax for the Peralta Community College District on June 5.
Some attendees of the April 25 Governing Board meeting were startled by the findings.
“I was totally blown away,” Márquez said. “I thought a parcel tax wouldn’t go well. When we got the results I almost fell off my chair.”
District Chancellor Helen Benjamin said, if passed, the parcel tax could save 200 course sections across the district each year while the state continues to reduce its funding for community colleges.
Contra Costa College’s operating budget this year was cut to $25 million. This is the fourth consecutive year of state funding reductions and more will be made in 2012-13.
State community colleges are funded through the Full-Time Equivalent Student (FTES) model. One FTES is equivalent to one student enrolled in 12 units each semester.
For the past four years, CCC has enrolled more students than the FTES it is funded for by the state in hope of growth money, Interim President Dan Henry said. The state has not been able to provide any growth funding to the district. Instead, it has cut each year.
Márquez said, “The reason we have this (tax) is because the state isn’t helping the community college districts. It gives money to the K-12 system.”
Márquez believes voters will support the parcel tax.
“I’m very optimistic about the voters. They really believe in our district,” he said. “They’re going to do the right thing. We’re going to get some great results.”
Governing Board Trustee Sheila Grilli said at the meeting that an $11 parcel tax is too low to make many changes in the district.
“It’s certainly not going to solve all the problems in the district but we want to go for something palatable,” she said. “We have to find a way to fund out very expensive programs.”
Henry said the state should be held accountable for funds, not taxpayers.
“I would prefer other funding systems in the future,” he said.
Henry is also against the idea of spending all of the tax money on saving sections.
“We have to balance student services to accommodate for more sections,” he said. “It would be imprudent to put all those funds to FTES that aren’t funded.”
The state also has two competing tax measures on the November ballot.
If passed, both guarantee funding for the public K-12 system, while only one initiative offers support to community colleges.
If approved, the California Sales and Income Tax Increase will give 89 percent of its revenues to K-12 schools and 11 percent to community colleges.
If taxpayers vote in this measure, they will see the state sales tax increase from 7.25 percent to 7.5 percent. For seven years the initiative will also increase the income tax for those whose yearly salaries exceed $250,000 from the current 10.3 percent to 13.3 percent.
Politicians estimate the tax will bring in $6.8 to $9 billion in 2012-13 and an average of $5.4 to $7.6 billion for the following five years with a smaller amount in 2018-19.