Proposition CC will be on the ballot this November. It is a bond issue that will provide funding to the Del Mar Union School District. This money is sorely needed to counteract the decline in funds available to our schools from Sacramento, where our property tax dollars should be coming back to us as education dollars. Sadly, in recent years, those property tax dollars have slowly been stripped away from the educational pool, and all school districts are feeling the loss. Communities have filed lawsuits to demand that California improve its education funding (see Robles-Wong vs. State of California) in an attempt to lift the State from its dismal rank of 35th in per-pupil spending nationwide.
Our basic aid status has provided us with somewhat of a buffer against these declining revenues. Unlike other districts, where class sizes have ballooned and programs and curriculum extras have been slashed, the DMUSD is able to retain some of the features more commonly found in private schools. The ESC program is 50 percent funded from the district’s efforts to match DMSEF dollars, and ensures our kids retain education in the arts and sciences. Our teachers are among the best and the brightest, drawn here by the small class sizes and the ability to focus on students instead of budget restraints. To confirm that, consider the DMUSD’s test scores: routinely the highest in the county, even when compared to other districts with well-prepared students.
But there has been some impact of State cuts in our district. We are now giving a “fair share” payment to the State of about $2 million in order to stave off the collapse of our Basic Aid rebate. Coincidentally, that is about the amount of our budget deficit in the 2011-2012 school year. DMUSD has done well to keep the cuts we have experienced away from the classroom. We still have small class sizes and specialized programs that provide our children with a very special public school experience compared to their peers in most other districts in San Diego. Our district administration is exceptionally lean, and our historically healthy reserve fund has been used in recent years to stave off budget deficits that resulted from previously unforeseen expenses, like security fencing at all of the schools.
But as Sacramento continues to turn down the tap on education funding, the DMUSD finds itself in the same hole that many other districts have already succumbed to: find an alternate source of funding, or make cuts that impact the classroom. To that end, the district has put forth Prop CC as an alternate source of funding. This $76.8 million bond will cost our taxpayers $8.44 per $100,000 of assessed value of their home each year. For the average homeowner in the district, that’s just $65 per year. $65 is not much to spend to ensure that our children continue to receive the best possible public school education they can get. $65 is a lot cheaper than private school, and it’s a small sum to pay to keep our schools the big draw they are to home buyers in our area; it’s a small sum to pay to ensure our property values.
Bonds have been in the news a lot lately, and taxpayers are rightly concerned that their hard-earned dollars are put to good use. Our DMUSD officials are aware of that, and are taking the recommendations of San Diego tax collector Dan McAllister to heart. They will be addressing this issue at the Sept. 19 board meeting, and will provide voters with assurances that we will not fall into the same financial black hole that has brought such scrutiny upon the Poway school district.
But we must act now. Interest rates are at an all-time low, making it the right time to strike. Waiting a few years may result in higher interest payments on our bond. Waiting a few years may result in watching Sacramento’s cuts hit our classrooms, forcing us to strip away those special features of our district, and making the education offered by the DMUSD more commonplace, less exceptional. Though the funds from our bond can not and will not be directly applied to the salaries of the district staff, the money can take pressure off the general fund that pays for those classroom expenses. Once cuts are made, it is hard to reverse that course. But we can stave it off and protect the quality of education we value in this community, if we act now.
Parent and taxpayer,
Quality Schools for Del Mar, Yes on CC