LIVERMORE — The Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District (LVJUSD) is asking residents to approve a special ballot measure that will extend an annual $138 package tax to fund its science and technology programs for another seven years.
LVJUSD officials say that without renewing the tax through Measure A on May 3, the tax will expire on June 22, costing the district about $4 million a year in funding needed for science programs and elementary school tech specialists. .
“It started about 18 years ago when the community expressed a desire for an additional curriculum at the elementary school level for science,” said LVJUSD Assistant Superintendent Chris Van Schaack. “The community was like, ‘We want more.’ It was the “plus”.
The funding, Van Schaack said, allows the district to hire qualified science teachers and technology specialists, keep technology and curriculum up-to-date, and prevent class sizes from growing. If Measure A fails, the district is already working on contingency plans that include layoffs.
Voting will be done entirely by mail, with no in-person voting sites. Voters should already have received information packets and ballots, which must be postmarked by May 3 and received at the Alameda County Registrar’s office by May 6.
Voters on three occasions – in 2004, 2010 and 2014 – have approved the parcel tax, which requires a two-thirds majority to pass. Proponents say the tax – $138 since its inception – will remain at that amount, so it is not a tax increase. Residents 65 and older can apply for an exemption.
The most recent approval, when it came to measure G, garnered 72% approval.
For many families, Van Schaack said, the programs have become an essential part of the elementary school experience, increasing student curiosity and development through hands-on experiences.
“This program that we’re offering is above and beyond, and it’s a way to fund that,” Van Schaack added.
Opponents of Measure A, including the Alameda County Taxpayers Association (ACTA) and the Livermore Valley Taxpayers Association, said the tax was unnecessary and was being used to inflate taxes. directors’ salaries.
“Don’t be fooled by the empty promises of this new tax,” ACTA President Marcus Crawley wrote in his argument against the measure. “This measure promises to ‘attract and retain qualified teachers’. The measure fails to identify the budget for new teachers, the number of new teachers, or even a plan that shows how the district will achieve the goal of attracting qualified teachers.
Crawley said the parcel tax “does not identify the functions, qualifications or performance standards of tech specialists” and argued that the threat of layoffs is not legitimate.
“Voters should call this bluff and vote no on this parcel tax that mostly benefits bureaucracy,” Crawley said. “Voters and parents should draft a new citizens’ initiative that identifies the exact specific purposes of a tax and cuts the salaries of arrogant overpaid administrators.”
Livermore resident and ACTA member Alan Heckman sued the district in February, saying the vote wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars because it was held a month before California’s June 7 primary. His lawsuit also alleged that the wording of the ballot measure misled voters. Alameda County Judge Frank Roesch ruled in favor of LVJUSD and allowed the election to proceed.
In an interview, Heckman said school officials were wasting money on excessive administrator salaries in a mediocre district that doesn’t attract young families.
Heckman said he was concerned that voting by mail in a special election would suppress voting. Some voters, he said, might show up at polling stations to vote and find they can’t.
“The whole strategy is to shut up and get as few people as possible to vote,” he said.
Van Schaack said the May 3 special election was necessary because the state’s education code requires the district to send layoff notices to employees by May 15. A June 7 vote would be too late and many of these teachers – in high demand to teach science – could look for other jobs during the uncertainty.
The district, he said, would have held the elections last year, but did not because of the pandemic.
District officials deny that funds acquired through the parcel tax go into administrators’ bank accounts.
“That’s just wrong. This is totally untrue,” Van Schaack said.
LVJUSD Chairman of the Board, Craig Bueno, said residents of the district, which include a high concentration of parents who worked for Lawrence Livermore and Sandia Laboratories, want a strong science and technology education for their children.
“The community is extremely supportive,” Bueno said. “The thing is, it’s something that kids really benefit from.”
The package tax, which has not been increased since its inception, will also allow Livermore to keep its kindergarten through third grade class sizes to a maximum of 25 students, he said.
If this fails, the district will lose this capability and lose science specialists. Bueno reiterated that no money goes to administrators or custodian salaries and spending is scrutinized by an oversight committee that meets quarterly.
“This thing hasn’t even had an argument against it the last three times,” Bueno said. “He was so overwhelmingly supported.”
In a letter published March 30 in The Independent, however, Livermore resident Jackie Cota urged no.
“The parcel tax is no longer necessary,” Cota said. “We’ve had a lot of state props and county taxes over the last 18 years that relate to ‘kids’ and if they don’t then we need new leadership… live by our means. Manage our money better!
However, Livermore resident Will Macedo, who identified himself as a member of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association (HJTA), wrote in a letter, also published March 30 in The Independent, that he supported the parcel tax. . Macedo said he sits on oversight committees and “not a penny of our local parcel tax is used for administrator salaries or benefits.”
“I believe supporting a quality education is a wise investment that protects our home values and makes Livermore a desirable place for families,” Macedo continued. “Measure A has won my support.”
Macedo’s support, however, was not taken up by his organization.
HJTA President Jon Coupal released a statement in response to Macedo’s letter stating that the tax association “did not approve Measure A proposed by the Livermore School District.” HJTA, Coupal said, hasn’t released an official position on the measure because the organization doesn’t have the ability to verify all of the measures in the state.
“We strongly oppose anyone who uses our organization’s name to suggest otherwise,” Coupal said.