But those campaigning for Measure G, a $195-per-year parcel tax that funnels $20 million each year to Oakland Unified School District programs, say they have faced little opposition.
"I think most people understand that OUSD needs the money, especially in light of what we've been hearing from Gov. Schwarzenegger about the state budget," said Jean Parker, a Peralta Elementary School parent who serves on the Measure G campaign committee.
Parker was referring to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposal toreduce the state budget deficit through a $4 billion reduction in public school funding, as well as cuts to other state programs. The Oakland district will need to cut $11 million to $13 million from its 2008-09 budget if the governor's proposal goes through, the district's chief financial officer, Leon Glaster, reported this week.
If Measure G receives the required two-thirds vote on Tuesday, residents wouldn't see their tax bills increase as a result. The parcel tax merely makes permanent an existing levy that first passed in 1996.
Proceeds from the tax are used to pay for smaller class
sizes, after-school programs, school libraries, art and music and other programs. The money may not be spent on the salaries of central office administrators, and expenditures will be monitored by an independent oversight committee.
Robert Apodaca, vice president for marketing and business development at McLarand Vasquez Emsiek and Partners, an architecture firm with an office in Oakland, said developers and others in the business world have embraced the tax.
"The business community realizes that to attract new business and to keep business, (the Oakland school district) has to operate at a higher level," Apodaca said. "Fortunately, (the district) has improved its performance, so there are signs of it really turning around."
While other parcel taxes charge property owners by the size of their property, this one charges everyone the same amount.
None of the funds go to the district's 30-some publicly funded, independently run charter schools. That fact was not lost on charter school advocates, who urged the district last fall to include the schools in the levy. The state administrator and school board opposed the idea, saying that doing so would amount to a cut for the traditional public schools.
Noel Gallo, a school board member and chairman of the Measure G campaign committee, said he feels confident the community will renew the measure once again.
"I think all of us need to be reminded that the foundation of our democracy lies in the education of young people," Gallo said.