OAKLAND — School trustees gave the green light to a $20 million parcel tax aimed at boosting salaries for 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.
But the trustee who cast the dissenting vote said that a recession with near-record unemployment is the wrong time to ask the public for more money.
"It's not going to be an easy sell," said Noel Gallo, who added that the board should wait at least another year.
Even trustees who supported the measure did so with little enthusiasm.
Still, 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 whether they want 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," trustee Jody London said. She and Christopher Dobbins spoke during the meeting via teleconference.
Supporters and opponents said they favored shifting some of the funding burden to businesses and the Port of Oakland instead of increasing taxes on individuals. Even if the measure passes, daunting problems remain for the district: A high number of Oakland schools rank low on the state rating system, and the district is still emerging from state control that ended in 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 would be used for raises for teachers and other school personnel.
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 would expire in 2021.
Trustee Jumoke Hinton Hodges called the proposal "bold" amid a recession. While the measure would not be used as a "back door" to merit pay, she said, compensating effective teachers would require "some good evaluation."
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