Facing Low State Funding, OUSD Considers New Parcel Tax

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    Facing record national economic inflation and the second lowest per-student funding in the state, the Orinda Union School District (OUSD) is recommending a resolution proposing a new parcel tax for residents.
    The district, which encompasses four elementary schools and one middle school, is funded through the state funding model Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) and receives a base grant. In addition, schools in state districts are also eligible under LCFF to receive supplemental and concentration grants, based on the percentage of students in need.
    “Our main source of funding is the state and that LCFF formula,” said OUSD Superintendent Aida Glimme, noting that it’s about 75% of the district’s funds. “And when 75% of your revenue is the lowest, or one of the lowest in the state, that has long-term effects.”
    OUSD receives base funding for around 2,500 students, along with some additional funding for transitional kindergarten and the kindergarten through third grade levels.
    The state-based LCFF grant formula’s supplemental grants are supplied to California schools based on their “unduplicated student” population, which includes students who are low income, those who are English learners, foster youth and homeless. Concentration grants are given to districts which have a 55% or greater population of these students.
    OUSD has a rate of approximately 3% of unduplicated students, which is one of the lowest rates in the state, according to the district’s webpage on funding information. The district receives no concentration grant funding.
    According to the district, OUSD’s per student funding amounts to around $8,500, while the state average for that funding falls between $10,000 and $11,000.
    Glimme noted OUSD makes up for the lack of state funding with the current parcel taxes, which include Measure A, approved in 2003 and Measure B, passed by voters in 2009. The two tax measures have exemptions based on senior and low-income status. The new proposed parcel tax would only include the senior exemption, said Glimme, with anybody age 65 or older able to apply.
    Measure A provides the school district with $385 per parcel, while Measure B adds $124 per parcel.
    The two taxes add up to about 12% of OUSD’s revenue, as explained by the district’s funding information page. The funding raised by the measures used to account for much more of the district’s revenue, explained Glimme, but since the amount collected remains stagnant, “[its] purchasing power has diminished.”
    Further complicating issues is the pay for OUSD teachers remains one of the lowest in the area, which affects the attraction and retention of high-quality instructional staff. In a pamphlet from the district, OUSD outlines its budget percentages, which illustrates around 80% of the budget is dedicated to supporting teachers and school employees. The remaining 20% is spent on technology, books, instructional materials and other supportive services for schools.
    Parent contributions through donations and fundraising add up to around 12% of district revenue through the Orinda Network for Education (ONE).
    “They actually bear quite a bit on their shoulders to contribute towards the education of our students,” said Glimme, acknowledging parents make up a small percentage of city residents.
    Small class sizes and the continuance of school programs, as well as the retention of quality educators are areas OUSD aims to support. Given, however, the lack of state funding, “either you make cuts on [district] expenditures” affecting class sizes and strong academic programs, due to the inability to fill teacher positions, or “you [need to] find new revenue, and that’s really where this parcel tax came in,” said Glimme.
    The new parcel tax would require a two-third approval from voters, and a decision regarding whether the tax will be determined via local election to be examined by the Board of Education.
    In Orinda, “we pride ourselves on the quality of our schools, clearly,” said Glimme. “Our scores and our programs demonstrate the high quality, and that’s the reason why we don’t want to go down the road of changing the quality of the programs, and we want to be able to recruit the best staff.”

Andrea Madison can be reached at drea.madison.05@gmail.com.

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