GUSD to vote on consulting firm for parcel tax

The Gilroy Board of Education

The Gilroy Unified School District will vote next week on a $16,500 contract with San Francisco-based consulting firm TBWB Strategies, to determine the feasibility of putting a parcel tax before voters in order to obtain local funding for Gilroy schools.

The parcel tax feasibility study is listed as an action item on GUSD’s agenda for the March 1 Board of Education meeting, which will take place at 7 p.m. in the district board room at 7810 Arroyo Circle. This is the first time GUSD has seriously considered researching and pursuing a parcel tax.

Board approval has been recommended to hire TBWB Strategies, which submitted Feb. 3 its proposal for a parcel tax feasibility study. Funding for the $16,500 contract will come from the district’s general fund – if the contract is approved by the School Board.

TBWB states that its standard consulting fee to the district would be $5,500 a month. This does not include the cost of conducting a poll, something TBWB estimates will cost the district between $24,000 and $30,000, depending on the sample size and survey length.

In recent board meetings, trustees have been presented with examples of different parcel tax amounts, which include $50, $100, $150, $200, $250 and $300 per year. A $50 parcel tax, for example, would provide $735,000 in revenue annually for the term of the parcel tax. A $300 parcel tax would provide GUSD with $4.4 million annually.

TBWB is described on its website as a “political strategy and communications consulting firm specializing in public finance ballot measures, strategic communications and grassroots mobilization strategies.” The consultants at TBWB have passed more than 100 public finance ballot measures in stable local revenue for public programs, services and facilities, according to its website.

In its parcel tax feasibility study proposal, TBWB spotlights past experience related to parcel tax work. This includes a list of 75 different projects worked on by TBWB that resulted in 60 to 80 percent of “yes” votes on various parcel taxes for central and northern California school districts. 

TBWB partner Jared Boigon said the consulting firm has worked with a number of districts boasting demographics similar to that of Gilroy. Boigon mentioned districts in Watsonville, East San Jose, Anaheim, Riverside County, East Palo Alto and South San Francisco.

As described in its proposal to GUSD, TBWB strategies will work with the district to develop a potential parcel tax outreach and communication strategy, which will be tested via polling. The consulting group will also assist GUSD in selecting a qualified pollster, guiding that pollster in writing a survey questionnaire and identifying the key demographic criteria for the “sampling universe” in a public opinion survey of local voters that tests the viability of a ballot measure.

After this, TBWB will evaluate GUSD’s chances for success in a potential election and help the pollster analyze the data to provide “strategic guidance for winning in the current environment.”

GUSD will receive additional specific recommendations for optimizing the chances of success with a parcel tax, including:

-The best election date and election type (mail-in ballot or polling location?)

-A tax rate and structure that will be palatable to voters

-An appropriate duration for the measure

-The package of programs and services to be funded that are in line with voter priorities

-The taxpayer exemptions that should be included

-The taxpayer accountability protections that will help build support

-A timeline, message recommendations and key next steps required to move the measure to the ballot.

Additional information regarding this agenda item will be made available by 5 p.m. on Monday, February 27, 2012.

Read more about possible school cuts and money saving ideas for GUSD:

GTA releases budget cut recommendations 

GUSD releases budget scenarios

– The district is faced with losing $471 to $841 per student instate funding next year.
– The funding scenario hinges on Gov. Jerry Brown’s taxinitiative, which will go before voters on the November ballot inattempts to help close a $9.2 billion deficit.
– The initiative would temporarily increase the sales tax byone-half percent, and temporarily raise the personal income tax onCalifornians who make more than $250,000 annually.
– If the initiative passes, GUSD will “only” lose $3.2 millionin state funding. Recommended budget reductions for this scenarioinclude implementing a spending freeze and column freeze; as wellas dipping into adult education funding; implementing furloughdays; and completely eliminating home-to-school transportation andelementary music and P.E.
-If the initiative doesn’t, GUSD will lose $7.2 million in statefunding. For this scenario, GUSD will consider – in addition to thecuts mentioned above – implementing class size increases; morefurlough days; reducing the work year and across-the-board salaryreductions.

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