The City of Union City announced its official endorsement of , a parcel tax, at this week’s City Council meeting.
Mayor Mark Green and the City Council voted unanimously to support the tax Tuesday night after a presentation made by the measure’s campaign committee.
“I’m well aware of the challenges going on in schools,” said Green, who has two sons working in the school district. “I think this is the right thing to be doing.
The measure calls for a tax of $180 per parcel in the New Haven school district, which includes all of Union City and a portion of South Hayward. The tax would generate $3 million a year for the next four years to help offset lost state funding.
The measure will be placed on a May 3 special, mail-in only election. Senior citizens over the age of 65 and residents with disabilities would be allowed exemptions from the tax.
Without the tax, the school district may be forced to increase class sizes, reduce instruction time and make cuts to co-curricular programs.
“We have a lot of families with children that come to Union City ... because we have a great school district,” said Richard Valle, chairman of the Measure B campaign committee. “This is a benefit to the city as well as the residents.”
Valle noted in his presentation that the district has already made cuts in recent years, having reduced the number of teachers by 9 percent since 2008.
According to the California Department of Education, the district had an enrollment of more than 13,000 students and a staff of 614 teachers in the 2009-2010 school year.
Much of the evening’s discussion focused on co-curricular activities, with one James Logan High School student speaking on the importance of the various programs offered in the district’s schools.
These activities not only help students academically, they also keep them engaged with education, Valle said.
However, sole dissenting speaker Lewis Lehnus questioned the school district’s intentions.
“The priority seems to be after-school programs instead of the three R’s (reading, writing and arithmetic),” said Lehnus, 60.
Charmaine Kawaguchi, president of the New Haven Teachers Association, approached the podium following Lehnus’ comments to say that most of the tax revenues would go toward maintaining class sizes. There are close to 40 students in English classrooms, Kawaguchi said.
The measure would see to it that kindergarten through third grade classrooms would remain at 25 students per class, she said.
“Children in Union City deserve better,” Kawaguchi said. “Not every child can get the attention they need to reach their full potential.”
Lehnus, who addressed the council twice, also said it was the wrong time for taxes, pointing at unemployment and home foreclosure figures. According to the state Economic Development Department, Union City’s unemployment rate was 10.2 percent in December, lower than the state’s 12.3 percent average.
Mayor Green pointed to Union City voters’ support of , a half-cent sales tax increase that passed in November, as an indicator that residents are willing to make a small sacrifice for the overall well-being of the community.
Council members expressed similar sentiments.
“I know this is a tough time for many of our citizens, but I also know that it’s important for us as a community to care about our future,” said council member Emily Duncan. “We’ve been known for being a great school district and we need to keep that going.”
The Measure B campaign committee will hold meetings every Monday at 5:30 p.m. at the for the remainder of the campaign.
On March 19, the committee will also hold a march from James Logan High School to the parking lot.