ANTIOCH -- The Antioch school district will survey residents to see whether they would support a parcel tax to boost district programs and services.
A majority of the board Wednesday night directed staff to poll residents for a possible ballot measure this November. The survey will cost about $30,000, said Tim Forrester, associate superintendent of business services.
The parcel tax idea was first brought up earlier this year, as district administrators have heard from principals, staff and parents and students about the need to add counselors and library media specialists, bring back elective programs -- such as music and art classes -- and boost technology in schools.
The survey will ask questions that gauge what the public would support, at what dollar amount and for what length of time, Forrester said.
A parcel tax requires two-thirds voter approval. It also allows for exemptions for seniors over 65 and the disabled.
Board president Joy Motts and trustees Gary Hack and Barbara Cowan favored the survey.
"It gives the public the opportunity to choose whether they want to put it on the ballot," Hack said."I think it's only fair that we ask the community their feelings on it," Motts said.
Trustees Diane Gibson-Gray and Claire Smith indicated they would not support a parcel tax.
"I just don't think the timing is right," Gibson-Gray said, noting that Mello-Roos, a tax that southeast Antioch property owners pay, ends in August 2016, and the city is looking into a tax on business licenses for landlords this fall.
Gibson-Gray added that she doesn't think community surveys provide much validation.
"To me, it's $30,000 I can spend elsewhere," she said.
Forrester says a $75 per parcel tax would bring in about $2.5 million, and a $149 per parcel tax would yield about $5 million.
Several residents and teachers spoke at Wednesday's meeting before the parcel tax item was discussed, urging the board to bring back instrumental music, adding that it promotes student success and prevents truancy. Resident Julie Young spoke during the discussion, saying she's against a parcel tax because there are already several taxes for Antioch schools.
"I urge you to live within your means. As a homeowner, I have to live within my means," she said. "If I want to get my house painted, I don't have a group of taxpayers that I can ask to give me money."
Until recently, the district had rarely asked residents to tax themselves for education. A $61.6 million bond for aging schools approved in June 2008 was the first ballot measure sought by the district since 1972.
A $55 million bond measure for renovating Antioch High School was approved in fall 2012.
Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.