Anonymous benefactor is funding CUSD parcel tax survey


By on Wed, September 21, 2005

A person or person who prefer(s) to remain anonymous is funding a survey of Coastside voters to determine their appetite for yet another parcel tax to support Cabrillo Unified School District.

The questionnaire was developed by a polling firm. While it is not a project of the CUSD board or the school district staff, it was developed with input from CUSD board members Dwight Wilson and Jolanda Schreurs, according to Wilson.

I had an opportunity to answer the questions myself when the survey house called me at home between the time when I called Wilson for comment and when we were able to connect.

The survey asks respondents whether they would support a tax of $250 per parcel per year, and also asks for their reaction to variations such as exempting taxpayers over 55, basing the tax on square footage, or exempting undeveloped parcels. It also tests voters’ interest in a citizen committee to oversee the spending of the money.  [A smartass would say that in many communities, such a committee is called a "school board".]

The survey also tests pitches for selling the tax to voters, including resumption of school bus service, reduced class sizes, saving sports or arts instruction, recruiting and retaining quality teachers, and blaming the state for the district’s financial problems.

It also recognizes that the still-undecided location of the new middle school may be a significant hurdle to getting the measure approved. There are several questions testing respondents knowledge of and interest in the middle school question.

Wilson acknowledged that the middle school site would be an issue in any parcel tax election and said that the goal was to decide on the site at the October board meeting and then on the parcel tax in November or December.  The decision on the parcel tax would have to be made in time to meet the deadline for putting measures on the ballot. Wilson told me that the election could be held in March, April, or June in order to appear on property tax bills.

Parcel taxes have been defeated four times in the last six years:

  • November, 1999: $125/parcel for 4 years
  • March, 2002:  $75/parcel for 3 years
  • March, 2003: $250/parcel for 5 years
  • June, 2003:  $250/parcel for 5 years

The results of the survey may only be available to its funders until it is presented to the school board in November or December. Wilson told me that even then individual results would not be given to the school board and they would only see the compiled information. However, the survey house is keeping track of the names and answers of individual respondents and verifying them at the end of the survey. This would be extremely useful in any campaign for a parcel tax.