A renewal of a school district parcel tax — Measure T — gained unanimous support from Richmond City Council Tuesday.
The measure renews the parcel tax at 7.2 cents per square foot of building space for another eight years — amounting to about $9.8 million annually. The funds would require independent oversight by citizens and property owners who are senior citizens or disabled can file for an exemption.
Measure T would keep the parcel tax at the rate it has been since it was first passed in 2004. An average home of 1,361 square feet costs a property owner about $98 a year under the tax rate, according to the East Bay Times.
David Gray, chief of staff for Mayor Tom Butt, said the measure would benefit about 13,000 Richmond students by supporting smaller class sizes, preparing children for college and career pathways, expanding library services, providing for after-school programs and attracting and retaining high quality teachers.
“And that’s just a brief synopsis,” he said.
Madeline Kronenberg, a WCCUSD board member, stressed to council that Measure T does not raise the parcel tax, but maintains it. It “pays for people” and is entirely unrelated to district bond measures for construction that have attracted controversy, she added.
“It keeps class size smaller, which will help teachers want to stay in our school district,” she said. “The biggest challenge for teachers is class size.”
Kronenberg encouraged voters to visit the district’s website to learn more about the measure.
No one opposed the parcel tax renewal at Tuesday’s Richmond council meeting.
“There’s an anti-tax fervor here,” said Don Gosney, a Richmond resident. “People just don’t want to pay any taxes.”
But he warned that “failure to pass Measure T means no more after school sports, counselors, librarians” etc.
“We can either pay to educate our youth, or we can pay to warehouse them in prisons,” he said.
The East Bay Times editorial board, which tends toward sympathizing with tax-weary voters, also endorsed Measure T, writing that it is “much-needed” to help “pay teachers decent salaries and provide quality education to students.”
But the Times added the caveat that property owners currently have such a high tax burden that even Measure T is “barely palatable.” Read the full Times editorial here.