OAKLAND — Oakland school trustees gave the green light to a $20 million parcel tax aimed at boosting salaries for school district staff and teachers — the lowest paid in the Bay Area.
Late Thursday, trustees voted 6-1 to put the tax measure on the Nov. 2 ballot.
This is the wrong time to try to tax residents more during the recession and near-record unemployment, said Trustee Noel Gallo, who cast the lone no-vote. The board should wait for another year, he said.
"It's not going to be an easy sell."
Despite voting to move forward with the tax, support was less than enthusiastic among trustees. But rejection by the seven-member school board was unlikely from the start of the nearly three-hour meeting.
Staring them in the face is a looming state budget deficit, education cuts and potential layoffs.
"We have cut everything we could possibly cut," Trustee Gary Yee said Thursday night during the single item special meeting.
Final passage is up to voters, who will decide if they are willing to pay a $195 flat-rate tax for Oakland schools on top of a $360 parcel tax proposed by the city council.
"I don't want to take the generosity of our taxpayers for granted. At the same time ... we are dealing with really difficult things," said Trustee Jody London. She and Christopher Dobbins spoke during the meeting via teleconference.
Supporters and opponents said Thursday that they favored shifting some of the funding burden to businesses and the Port of Oakland instead of upping taxes on individuals. But few pledged opposition even though skepticism that the money will be effective was high. A high number of Oakland schools rank low on the state rating system and the district was under state control until 2008.
None of the money raised by the tax would pay senior management salaries, including at charter schools. About 80 percent of the $20 million tax is to be used to increase pay for teachers and school personnel employed by the Oakland Unified School District. Teachers in charter schools would receive 15 percent of the revenues. The rest is marked for training for new teachers, including a portion to pay for an annual audit of the tax spending.
Homeowners would see the tax beginning July 1, if voters approve the measure by the two-thirds margin. Low-earning single-family homeowners, who occupy their homes, can apply for an exemption.
The tax expires in 2021.
Trustee Jumoke Hinton Hodges called the proposed tax "bold" in the midst of a recession. While the measure will not be used as a "backdoor" to merit pay, she said compensating effective teachers will require "some good evaluation."