PUSD approves parcel tax increase, considers another

Recent community survey indicates voter support for increase in Measure H.

The Piedmont Unified School District Board of Education approved a two percent increase in the Measure G parcel tax assessment for the 2024-25 school year at its June 12 meeting. The Board also received a survey that indicated support for an increase in the Measure H parcel tax, which would need to go before voters.

Both measures were last approved in 2019. Measure G is a flat rate per parcel (currently $2,932) which the Board can increase by up to two percent per year. Voters need to renew that tax every six or eight years, according to materials provided by the District. Measure H is a $0.25 per square foot assessment (a 2,500-square foot property pays $625 per year). The Board is considering going back to voters in November to increase the assessment to $0.50 per square foot.

Vice President of the Board Lindsay Thomasson said Measure H currently supplies about five percent of the District’s revenue, while Measure G provides about 22 percent. The increase to Measure G was approved 5-0 with little discussion.

Regarding an increase to Measure H, Tim McLarney of True North Research surveyed 282 respondents in Piedmont and found a baseline of almost 77 percent that would “probably” or “definitely” support a measure with the following language:

“Shall Piedmont Unified School District’s measure renewing the school parcel for 8 years be adopted at the rate of 50 cents per square foot of building improvements, providing 5 million dollars in annual school funding that can’t be taken away by the State, with independent citizen oversight and all money locally-controlled?”

McLarney reported 43.7 percent of respondents said they would definitely support the measure and 33.0 percent would probably support the measure. A two-thirds majority would be needed for passage.

McLarney said he tested the question with potential pro and con talking points as well.

“Does a parcel tax appear feasible for the November 2024? ballot? Yes,” read one of the slides in McLarney’s presentation. (Read the full survey results HERE.)

“These are the kind of results other districts will dream of getting,” he told the Board.

However, he added that, “If you step back out of the survey and you think about what this November election cycle is going to be like,” other issues could come up.

“Every once in a while, we get what I call feel-good elections,” McLarney said. “Economy is going great, people are feeling flush, not a lot of controversy out there.

“This November’s election is not going to be a feel-good election. We’re going to have a bitter hyper-partisan presidential contest that is going to set the tone. We have these statewide measures that are going to create their own weather system and a lot of headwinds for some local measure because it’s going to be a big fight about taxes.”

Piedmont resident and political consultant Larry Tramultola

Longtime Piedmont resident and political consultant Larry Tramutola, who has worked with McLarney and has been advising the district on parcel tax and bond elections for decades, commented on the positive results of the survey: “Numbers like this just don’t happen — they happen because of you all, because this community cares about schools.” His enthusiasm was tempered by a cautionary note about the importance of respecting the voters, and having smart communications and a dedicated team of volunteers willing to get those communications out to neighbors and friends.

Board members were happy that the survey indicated there would be support for a new parcel tax measure. However, they all noted that passing these will require help from parents and school supporters around town. The District itself is not allowed to allocate funds to a campaign.

The item will presumably be placed on a future agenda for approval.

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