How are Tam Union High School District schools performing?
We have exceptional schools here in Tamalpais Union High School District, with outstanding academic programs and highly qualified teachers. Our students at Redwood, San Andreas, Sir Francis Drake, Tamalpais and Tamiscal High Schools receive a high-quality education that prepares them to succeed in college and future careers. Our comprehensive high schools are ranked among the best in the country and graduation rates are over 95% at all five of our high schools.
What challenges are facing our schools?
Student enrollment in our high schools has grown dramatically over the past few years and is expected to continue to increase. In fact, in the past seven years alone, student enrollment has increased by almost 30%. At the same time, however, revenue supporting our schools has not kept pace. While most schools are funded on a per pupil basis, we are a community-funded district, which means that we do not receive additional funding as more students attend our schools. The number of students we serve is far outpacing the dollars we receive to serve those students.
How has our District continued to provide a quality education despite insufficient funding?
Due to the District’s fiscal management over the years, the District has been able to make up for insufficient funding by relying on reserve funds. This year alone, the District is relying on over $7 million in reserve funds. These funds will eventually run out, however, and our schools will be forced to make deep cuts if a local solution to stabilize the budget is not found.
Has our District already made cuts?
Yes. The District has already made approximately $2 million in cuts for the 2018-19 school year and will need to make an additional $6 million in cuts the following year. Cuts of this magnitude would have a direct impact on the classroom and would be the equivalent of laying off over 41 teachers, increasing class sizes and cutting academic and enrichment programs. Unless additional funding is secured, our ability to attract and retain the highest quality teachers could be threatened.
Has a local parcel tax measure been placed on the ballot?
Yes. To protect the quality of education and prevent cuts to our high schools, the Tamalpais Union High School District Board of Trustees voted to place a local measure on the November 6, 2018 ballot that would levy a parcel tax at the rate of $149 per parcel for four years. The tax would provide an additional $5.1 million for our schools each year and prevent the layoff of teachers and cuts to academic programs.
What would the local funding measure do for our schools?
The measure would:
- Protect high-quality science, technology, engineering, math, reading and writing programs
- Attract and retain high-quality teachers, counselors and staff
- Maintain small class sizes
- Support music and art programs
- Provide career, college preparation and counseling programs
- Maintain school libraries
Are fiscal accountability provisions required?
The measure includes fiscal accountability provisions to ensure all funds are spent as promised to directly support quality local high schools.
- All money raised by the measure would be controlled locally, go to our local schools and could not be taken away by the State
- None of the money raised by the measure could ever be used for administrators' salaries or benefits
- The measure requires independent citizen oversight and annual audits to ensure all funds are spent as promised
Does the parcel tax measure include a senior exemption?
Yes. Senior citizens homeowners would be eligible for an exemption from the parcel tax measure. In addition, those who receive Supplemental Security Income for a disability or those who receive Social Security Disability Insurance benefits and have an income lower than 250 percent of the 2012 poverty guidelines would also be eligible for an exemption from the cost.
Does the measure account for inflation?
Yes. The local measure includes an escalator of 3% per year to account for inflation and other increases in the cost of providing programs.
Would all funds from the measure benefit Tam Union High School District schools?
Yes, all locally-controlled funds would benefit our local high schools and could not be taken away by the State or used for other purposes.
How long would the measure last?
The measure would last for 4 years and could not be extended without voter approval.
When will I be able to vote on this measure?
The measure has been placed on the November 6, 2018 ballot. All registered voters living in the Tam Union High School District are eligible to vote on the measure.
Would this measure prevent all cuts to our schools?
No. Even if this measure passes, our schools will still need to make cuts to balance the budget.
What would the cost of the measure be for renters?
Only property owners who pay property taxes would pay the cost. However, landlords may pass all or a portion of the cost of the measure on to their tenants.
Does the District already have a parcel tax?
Yes. Since 1989, our schools have relied on stable local parcel tax funding to attract and retain quality teachers and protect academic programs. This local funding provides $10 million for our schools each year and accounts for approximately 13% of our budget. This funding supports education in our schools at a time when other funding is unreliable and insufficient. This funding is set to expire in 2022.
Our teachers receive high salaries. Will this measure help pay for teacher salaries?
Yes. Despite the high cost of living in our area, we are able to attract and retain some of the best teachers in the state, in large part because of our competitive salaries and benefits. We want our students to have highly qualified teachers who are invested in our community and in our schools. This measure would help to attract qualified teachers so that students continue to receive the high-quality education they deserve.
Did the District know that student enrollment was on the rise?
Yes. The District has closely followed enrollment projections and anticipated that student enrollment would continue to increase. In fact, the District has been preparing for this by setting aside funds in the reserve, which has allowed the District to protect and maintain programs even as funding has been insufficient. Continuing to spend the reserve is not meant to be a long-term solution, however, so the District will need to either make additional cuts or secure additional funding.
Why don’t we receive more funding when we have more students?
We cannot rely on the State to provide the funding our schools need. While most schools are funded on a per student basis, we are a community-funded district which means that we do not receive additional funding as more students attend our schools. The number of students we serve is far outpacing the dollars we receive to serve those students.
What about the rising costs of special education? Is this part of the problem?
We provide a high-quality education to all of our students—including those in special education. It’s true that with increased enrollment more students are requiring special education and the cost of providing special education is getting higher. The cost of special education is comprising a larger percentage of our budget every year, although we are happy to provide these services to ensure that every Tam Union student receives the outstanding education they deserve.
What about pensions?
The District is legally required to pay retirement benefits and cannot adjust these costs. Retirement benefits are set at the state level and not at the local level. Pensions, however, are only one piece of the challenges facing the district as state funding for our schools is insufficient, the cost of providing a quality education continues to increase and our schools are facing rising student enrollment.
Is the District transparent in its budgeting process?
Yes. The District makes every effort to be transparent and open as it develops and maintains its budget. In fact, the District recently started a standing LCAP (Local Control and Accountability Plan)/Fiscal Advisory Committee comprised of stakeholders within our community to review our current budget challenges and identify potential cuts and options for moving forward. The District has also conducted town hall meetings to seek input from the community. Our budget continues to be a top priority and is discussed in our board meetings, which are open to the public. In addition, the District’s budget is posted online with a link on the homepage of the District’s website – www.tamdistrict.org.
Why is Marin County Office of Education involved in the District’s budget?
This year, Marin County Office of Education (MCOE) reviewed the TUHSD’s interim budget and provided a positive certification. However, the MCOE noted that if the District continues to rely on reserve funds to make up for insufficient funding, the District would be insolvent in 2020-21.
TUHSD has been planning for this and agrees that relying on the reserves is not a long-term solution; the reserves have helped accommodate insufficient funding but cannot be relied upon year after year.
The District is taking steps to make cuts where possible. The District has made approximately $2 million in cuts for 2018-19 and plans to make an additional $6 million more in cuts the following year. The District has also placed a local school parcel tax measure on the ballot. This local measure would help to prevent the layoff of over 41 teachers and staff, increased class sizes and cuts to core academic and enrichment programs.
Why can’t we just rely on the reserve?
The District is required to maintain a reserve, or savings account, for emergencies so that it can continue to operate in the event of unexpected or dramatic changes in funding. It has been necessary to rely on the reserve in order to insulate our students from devastating cuts, however, this is a short-term solution as the reserve will eventually run out. To protect the quality of academic programs and prevent cuts to teachers and staff, a stable source of ongoing revenue needs to be secured.
What’s the difference between parcel taxes and bond measures?
Bond measures and parcel tax measures are used for different purposes — bond measures can only fund facility upgrades and improvements and cannot be used for operating costs or programs. Parcel taxes may be used for teachers and academic programs.
How can I register to vote or learn more about voting?
You can register to vote at www.registertovote.ca.gov. To find out more about voting in this election, please contact the Marin County Registrar of Voters at (415) 473-6456 or visit www.marincounty.org/depts/rv.