As taxpayers in the Del Mar Union School District (DMUSD), and as parents of children — past, present, and future — in DMUSD schools, it is important to understand why Proposition CC, the general obligation bond for DMUSD, will be on our upcoming election ballots.
With over 110 school-bond and parcel-tax measures on November ballots across the state, and at least 37 similar measures on this past June’s ballots, as a tax-paying electorate, we have to ask ourselves, “What has happened to state funding for education?”
Clearly, the deficit spending that the DMUSD and surrounding school districts, such as Cardiff, Encinitas, Rancho Santa Fe, and San Diego Unified, are experiencing is not unique. Most California school districts are trying to find steady fiscal footing in a time of financial volatility. The DMUSD has been diligent and responsible in its spending, but the reality is that funding is not keeping pace with the educational programs we have worked so hard to build and be proud of. In response, Proposition CC provides DMUSD voters an opportunity to help protect the education of our children and the value of our community.
In an effort to better comprehend our present circumstances, it will help to understand how we got here. In 2009, there were many indications that this was the future we were facing. The DMUSD Board of Trustees called for a committee of parents, staff members, and administrators to meet regularly, examine the financial health of the district, and make recommendations based on their findings. This group of 19 was known as the Financial Task Force (FTF). While they tried to remain optimistic, the prospect of deficit spending was very real then, and they recommended that “if basic-aid funding is greatly decreased, or eliminated, then the reserve should be spent incrementally to preserve programs.” (DMUSD FTF Final Report, April 30, 2010)
Following the recommendations of the FTF, the district has been conservatively spending our historically healthy reserves for the past two years because basic-aid funding—sourced from the surplus of our local property taxes—has continued to decline. DMUSD’s basic-aid status necessitates that it provide a “fair share” payment back to Sacramento, and this “fair share” cost has been steadily rising since it was established years ago. In fact, our most recent “fair share” sum was $2 million, which was also the amount of our deficit expenditure last year.
If this pattern continues — declining property tax surplus, increased “fair share” amounts, and unreliable funding from Sacramento — estimates are that our deficit spending could be about $4.5 million this year. That’s if Governor Brown’s tax initiatives pass in November. If those initiatives don’t pass, DMUSD faces a deficit of approximately $6.5 million for this current year. Projections for the 2013-2014 school year are worse. And the reality is that these future projections of deficit spending could jeopardize our district’s financial standing if we don’t have an alternative source of funding in place. As Marsha Sutton wrote in March of 2011, we are witnessing “the frightful decimation of the education budget in Sacramento.” (Sutton, “Education Decimation,” The Carmel Valley News, March 10, 2011)
DMUSD neighbors: as we head into this election season, for $8.44 per $100,000 of assessed property value, we can lessen the impact of this decimation. For the average homeowner, this $76.8 million bond amounts to $65 per year, all of which is tax-deductible. We do have a choice.
As we’ve seen, the mitigating steps that the FTF recommended won’t carry us through indefinitely. Governor Brown’s tax initiatives, whether passed or not, won’t help us provide ongoing, quality educational programs for our children. We need to vote “Yes” on Proposition CC to fund our local schools with our local dollars because the funding from Sacramento has become unpredictable at best. It will ensure that our general fund is used to strengthen our local schools and keep our neighborhoods desirable.
While many other districts have placed bonds on their communities’ ballots, it is important to note that DMUSD has never asked taxpayers to fund a bond. Not in the aftermath of Black Monday in October of 1987 when markets crashed and property values languished for years, and not in 2008 when some surrounding districts, including Rancho Santa Fe, placed general obligation bonds on local ballots.
The DMUSD is placing the bond before voters now because this bond is truly needed to preserve our curriculum and our programs, our jewel in the crown. It will counteract the uncertainty that our district currently faces, no matter what happens in Sacramento. It is an investment in our district, our community, and, most importantly, our children.
To learn more about Proposition CC, please visit qualitydelmarschools.org and dmusd.org.
Writer and editor, parent and taxpayer, and
Kyra Zeroll, product manager, parent and taxpayer