On November 8, Marin voters decided to use their tax dollars to continue to fund kindergarten through eighth grade public education in Mill Valley. Measure E renewed the parcel tax that passed in 2008, which accounted for nearly 20 percent of the Mill Valley School District budget. The Measure needed to pass by at least two thirds of the vote, and has a 12-year term.
Although similar propositions to Measure E have passed, there were voters who opposed this new tax. As a parcel tax, Measure E requires anyone owning land in Mill Valley to pay an annual fee, with a five percent annual escalator, with those who are 65 years or older exempt.
Funding goes towards salaries for core teachers, continuing physical education, libraries, and counseling programs for Mill Valley Middle School, Edna Maguire, Old Mill, Park, Strawberry Point, and Tam Valley Schools.
Chair women of Measure E, Emily Uhlhorn explained that the measure will bring approximately $9 million into the next year and around $140 million over its term. Government funds account for only 62 percent of Mill Valley School District revenue, around 25 percent of funding comes from parcel taxes. The remaining 13 percent comes from other sources such as Kiddo and PTA.
Many homeowners with kids outside the Mill Valley school system did not want to pay the annual $980 per parcel tax. The County of Marin website stated, “Enough is enough. Yes, we readily support our schools and quality education. But…it is a ‘tax-payer as piggybank’ measure, which directly drives up the cost of living in Mill Valley.”
Those who were against Measure E felt it was unnecessary to annually increase the tax, and felt it would greatly increase the cost of living in Mill Valley, and teachers would no longer be able to afford living here. The website further stated, “[Measure E] is marketing manipulation for the School District to tug on voters’ heartstrings with the theme “it’s for the children” and set an excessive annual renewal rate.”
Others felt that the proposed amount of money was not enough for the school district. “It would [have been] a catastrophe if [Measure E] didn’t pass, not only because it is expensive to put another measure on a future ballot, but more importantly, because if the district put a measure on the ballot with a three percent annual escalator, the district would blow through its reserve in the next 6 years,” Uhlhorn said. Uhlhorn explained that people who were opposed to the measure felt raising the tax by three percent would be adequate to support the Mill Valley School District, however according to the Community Financial Advisory Committee, the school district requires a five percent annual escalator.
If the measure did not pass, Robin Moses, President of the Mill Valley School District Board of Trustees, believed class sizes would increase, many teachers would be laid off, and school libraries would face budget cuts. On the other hand, homeowners in Mill Valley would have noticeably lower property taxes. ♦