ANTIOCH -- School district trustees hoping to add back programs and services cut during the recession are considering placing a parcel tax on the ballot.
Superintendent Donald Gill said he's heard from principals, staff and parents about the need to address safety issues, add vice principals and library media specialists, bring back elective programs such as elementary music and boost technology in schools.
A parcel tax would provide a dedicated funding source that keeps identified programs from being touched, added Tim Forrester, associate superintendent of business services.
Following a preliminary discussion this week, the Antioch Unified board directed staff to look at rates and come up with other information -- provided it doesn't cost any money to gather.
"I'm not sure what side of the fence I'll come down on, but I'm certainly open to more information," board Vice President Gary Hack said.
A parcel tax requires two-thirds voter approval. It also allows for exemptions for seniors over 65 and the disabled.
Connell Lindh, a campaign consultant who worked with Antioch on past elections, offered some insight at Wednesday's meeting.
It would cost about $20,000 to $25,000 to poll residents, Lindh said. Parcel taxes are successful about half of the time in California, he said.
If trustees give the go-ahead on a survey, Gill said the questionnaire would include asking potential voters which programs they would favor.
Several Contra Costa school districts are looking at parcel taxes as a funding option, Gill said, noting Pittsburg passed a parcel tax in 2008 and Lafayette is considering an extension of its tax. Moraga schools passed a parcel tax last November, while Martinez and West Contra Costa did the same in 2012.
"School districts are relying on locally generated revenue to have more flexibility and more local control to provide our students with resources and equipment and access to information that is above and beyond," Gill said.
Trustee Diane Gibson-Gray said passing a parcel tax "would be a big challenge," given that property owners in southeast Antioch still pay Mello-Roos. That assessment ends in mid-2016.
About 40 percent of the district's property owners live in the Mello-Roos area, Forrester said.
Trustee Claire Smith said she is against placing any parcel tax measure on the ballot, especially because the public will be sensitive toward taxes that mostly cover salaries and benefits.
"It doesn't matter how much money we throw at it, it never seems to end. It never gets better," Smith said. "I can't ask the taxpayers for more money right now."
Antioch Unified considered a parcel tax idea briefly in 2010, but then decided the timing would not be right. As many as 66 percent of the 500 registered Antioch voters polled at the time said they would support a parcel tax, depending on the measure's wording.
Those polled were asked about a $98 annual tax for four years.
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 was approved in 2012.
Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.