Friday, October 19 , 2018, 6:39 pm | Fair 81º


More Seniors Opting Out of Paying School Parcel Taxes Under Measures H, I

Santa Barbara School District's Measures Q, R won't face similar fate under bond regulations

Two years after voters living in the Santa Barbara School District approved parcel taxes aimed at shoring up school budgets, the district is asking the same voters to approve a pair of bond measures for campus capital improvements.

While the four measures all tackle school funding, the details between the two sets are significant. One of the differences is a “senior opt-out” for Measures H and I, which passed in 2008 and were intended to support math, science, foreign languages, arts and music programs. Another is the threshold needed for approval between a tax and a bond, which is a simple majority for the latter and a two-thirds majority for the former.

Public education funding has been an ongoing concern in California for a number of years now. The Santa Barbara School District grappled with a $7.7 million budget reduction for the 2009-2010 fiscal year, and projects another $5 million cut for the 2010-2011 period.

Measure H, which covers the Santa Barbara High School District that stretches from Goleta to Montecito, is a four-year annual parcel tax of $23. The funds raised are to enhance science, math and technology education; provide elective classes, such as arts, music and foreign languages; and restore math class-size reductions eliminated under budget pressures.

Measure I, which covers the Santa Barbara Elementary School District that follows the boundaries of the city of Santa Barbara, is a four-year annual parcel tax of $27. It also focuses on math, science and technology education, along with classroom music programs.

Both parcel tax measures include a provision for an exemption from the tax for “any parcel owned by any owners 65 years of age or over of a parcel used solely for owner-occupied, single-family residential purposes, upon annual application for exemption.”

In 2009-2010, district officials say, 123 senior citizens opted out of the tax for the elementary district and 187 seniors opted out for the secondary district. Officials said that number ballooned for 2010-2011, with 231 seniors opting out of the tax at the elementary level and 400 at the secondary level — increases of 88 percent and 114 percent, respectively.

The senior opt-out has equated to a loss of $6,237 for the elementary district and a loss of $9,200 for the secondary district for the 2010-2011 period, according to district officials.

In June, the Santa Barbara school board approved two bond measures for the Nov. 2 ballot. Measure Q will direct $75 million for secondary schools while Measure R designates $35 million for elementary schools.

Each bond requires 55 percent approval for passage. As with Measures H and I, voters from Goleta to Montecito will decide the fate of Measure Q, while only residents of the city of Santa Barbara can vote for Measure R.

The bond measures’ funding will be for repairing, upgrading and replacing buildings, structures, surfaces and facilities at campuses throughout the district. This includes improving areas such as kitchens, cafeterias, libraries, playground surfaces and equipment, laboratory technology, portable classrooms, and enhancing the safety and security system. The money would also be allocated toward modernizing classrooms and providing renewable energy. The goal of implementing renewable energy, such as solar panels, is to not only reduce costs and save money, but also to receive renewable energy credits.

Issued by the school district, the bonds are available to individual investors who can buy them and enjoy interest that is free from both federal and state income taxes. The school district will pay back the bonds through property tax assessments.

“The bonds will not increase property taxes,” according to the district’s Web site. “Instead, the proceeds will be funded from maintaining the current property tax rates out into the future.”

The district also points out that previous bonds from 1998 for elementary schools and 2000 for secondary schools “resulted in many extremely important additions.” Click here for The Road to Renovation, a school district report on Measure V2000 funds.

Margie Yahyavi, interim executive director at the Santa Barbara Education Foundation, believes the response will be positive.

“I think the public will realize that these are good measures,” Yahyavi told Noozhawk. “We know the need is good, (there is) no increase in taxes. Without improvements, the buildings deteriorate more, and it will just get more expensive.”

Yahyavi noted it was an opportune time for the measures, because it allows the district to capitalize on renewable energy credits and state matching funds.

Measures Q and R will be accompanied by citizen oversight committees to ensure that the funds are well spent and properly managed, she said.

Mark Ingalls, board president of the Santa Barbara Education Foundation, and SBEF board member Lynn Rodriguez are co-chairs of the Measures Q&R steering committee. In the interest of disclosure, Noozhawk publisher Bill Macfadyen is an SBEF board member and, as a result, also a steering committee member.

Noozhawk intern Lindsey Weintraub is a sophomore at the University of San Diego. She can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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