FUHSD community approves Measure M for continued funding

In+the+November+2020+election%2C+FUHSD+voters+approved+Measure+M+with+73.5%25+support%2C+extending+a+%2498+parcel+tax+for+the+next+8+years+after+2022.+

Graphic illustration by Sunny Li.

In the November 2020 election, FUHSD voters approved Measure M with 73.5% support, extending a $98 parcel tax for the next 8 years after 2022.

Sunny Li

In the November 2020 election, FUHSD voters approved Measure M with 73.5% of the vote to renew the existing $98 parcel tax providing extra funding for FUHSD schools for another eight years. This tax will raise approximately $5 million annually from residents living within FUHSD boundaries. 

Parcel taxes are property taxes based on characteristics of a property, such as size or purpose, rather than its assessed value. However, for the parcel taxes levied by Measure M, each property would be taxed $98 per year, regardless of factors like assessed value. Under California law, parcel taxes can be imposed by local governments, which includes school districts, and require a two-thirds majority to pass. Like the current parcel tax, senior and disabled citizens may apply for exemptions.

Money raised mainly goes to retain staff because paying them a competitive salary helps maintain class sizes and academic programs. To ensure accountability, an oversight committee is required as stated in the text of the measure. FUHSD’s Independent Citizens’ Oversight Committee, which also oversees bond funds, presents annual reports to the community regarding the revenue and expenses of the parcel tax. 

The Silicon Valley Taxpayers Association, a critic of the measure, claimed that remote learning reduces spending for the district, making the tax unnecessary and burdensome for families. An affluent school district with high profits from property taxes, they argue, does not need extra funding on top of the existing taxes. The organization cited that FUHSD teachers are paid above statewide average salaries and asserted that they are already well compensated. On the other hand, supporters of the measure refuted that point. 

“Silicon Valley’s cost of living is more expensive than other areas, so it’s hard to compare with others,” FUHSD Board Trustee Rosa Kim said. “We do need to come to fairly compensate our teachers, as teachers are a really critical part of our student’s instruction.”

 Kim and fellow Trustee Naomi Nakano-Matsumoto chaired the campaign committee to promote Measure M. After the Board voted to put the measure on the ballot in a meeting on July 21, the committee, made up of approximately 12 volunteer community members, met bi-weekly to discuss outreach, which included designing campaign flyers and lawn signs. The pandemic prevented them from implementing some of their usual methods, like door-to-door canvassing, but they still found safe ways to reach out to the community. 

“The Superintendent [Polly Bove] did a lot of community presentations, such as to the Rotary Club, that she would have done anyway,” Nakano-Matsumoto said. “We also used social media, and Rosa and I were at the farmer’s market a couple times, just walking around with our signs.” 

Lawn signs were strategically placed in high traffic areas and distributed to community members. The committee also met with community leaders, such as principals of local foreign language schools, to tap into their networks, and staff members who supported Measure M reached out to those around them. 

“It’s important that we have well respected and well compensated teachers and support staff, so that we can provide our best to the students,” said math teacher Chris Baugh, who lives within district boundaries. “I’ve always lived by the mantra that you can’t put students first if you put teachers last.”

The $98 parcel tax was first introduced and passed in 2004, when FUHSD sought to restore teacher and staff salaries by raising money through the tax. The state had reduced funding for the district, forcing district administrators to reduce teacher and staff pay. Voters renewed the parcel tax in 2010 and 2014, with the most recent renewal expiring in 2022. Measure M’s approval ensures that the parcel tax will be extended for 8 years following that expiration, until 2030.  

“I think the support Measure M received shows our community’s values on education,” said College and Career Center adviser and FUHSD resident Barb Takahashi. “It shows that even those of us who no longer have children in the school system want to continue supporting that system and understand the benefits it adds to our community as a whole.”

The parcel tax has remained at $98 through these years due to community feedback. A survey conducted in October 2019 of likely November 2020 voters indicated that a measure increasing the parcel tax would fall short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass, and that renewing the existing tax was more feasible. As district administrators and board members hoped, the measures passed.

“I want to emphasize how incredibly grateful we are for the support we’re receiving from our community,” Bove said. “This is a clear message that they’re pleased with how we’re spending that money and that they’re willing to continue to give it to us to serve the students of this community. It’s huge for us and we take that very seriously and respect and value their trust.”