With Morgan Hill Unified School District moving toward placing a parcel tax on the June ballot, its Board of Trustees Jan. 23 approved a $15,000 expenditure to conduct a second survey of voters for further assurance that such a measure will pass.
The purpose of the new poll is to determine if a $75 per parcel amount would pass the necessary two-thirds threshold, according to district staff. The $75 amount would generate $1.5 million annually to the school district.
A 4-2 board vote gave the go-ahead for the second survey, which will poll 400 potential voters, at random, on their willingness to support the local school district in this manner.
Trustee Donna Ruebusch, a retired MHUSD teacher of more than 30 years, said this is the way the process has worked in the past with other education measures, including the passage of the $198 million Measure G in November 2012, and she was comfortable with allocating the extra coin for a more pointed survey.
“This is a very familiar pattern to me. I think it sounds reasonable to hone in on the dollar amount,” Ruebusch said. “With the mailers and items that have been in local newspapers and other information at our school sites, the consciousness is being raised for the need of a parcel tax and for what the parcel tax is about.”
However, two board members, Gino Borgioli and David Gerard, were skeptical that another poll would provide any more relevant information than the initial survey (conducted in June 2017), especially one that does not include details into the district’s plan for allocating those funds.
“I’ve heard from community members, and they don’t know what position to take because they don’t know what the money would be used for,” said Trustee David Gerard, who referred to the new survey as “a little bit redundant” and “empty” without more substance to it.
Even teachers union leader Gemma Abels questioned if it was a good use of district funds to finance a second poll without telling voters exactly where the parcel tax revenue would end up.
“As of yet, Morgan Hill Federation of Teachers hasn’t taken a position on the parcel tax because we haven’t seen any language as to what it will be used for,” Abels said while addressing the board and district leadership at the Jan. 23 meeting. “You’ve already taken $24,000 from the general fund (for the first poll) and now you’re asking for an additional $15,000 from the one-time discretionary fund…I’m not sure what further surveying might accomplish.”
Hed: Survey focus on $75 parcel tax
Jim Carrillo, the district’s technology director who has been working with two other district staffers (Kimberly Beare and Cathy Moss) on a community outreach committee, begged to differ. He explained the voting public has been made more aware of the district’s budget problems since the initial poll was conducted in June, and might be more in favor now of a higher parcel tax amount than that survey indicated.
“In order for us to do this (second) poll, we had to lead up to it. We had to send out the mailers to get the community’s understanding of our situation when it comes to right-sizing the budget,” said Carrillo, further detailing that the second poll will be a shorter five-minute survey focused specifically on gaging voter support for a $75 parcel tax on the June ballot.
In the previous 10-minute survey, which was “broader” in scope, Carrillo said, results showed that voters were likely to approve a $55 tax increase for an education parcel tax by 68 percent on the June 2018 ballot and by 72 percent on the November 2018 ballot. If approved, that parcel tax would generate about $1.1 million annually for the district based on an estimated 20,000 parcels.
However, when it came to the $75 tax increase, 61 percent of the same pool of voters said they were likely to pass the measure in June, with a 68 percent approval rating for the November 2018 ballot. At $95, the approval rating dipped to 63 percent in November and 55 in June, according to the first survey’s results.
Since then, district staff announced its need to trim $5.5 million from the budget, formed a Right Sizing the Budget Committee to inform the public and gain feedback from stakeholders, met with home-and-school club members for each site and sent out mailers to local households further breaking down the district’s financial situation.
“It’s simply to take that poll to the next level to see in fact that a $75 parcel tax would pass in the June ballot,” Carrillo said.
The district previously sought approval for a parcel tax in June 2006, which was called Measure E, but the parcel tax was unsuccessful with only a 55.5 percent approval rate. A parcel tax requires a two-thirds approval rate.
A parcel tax is a form of property tax assessed at a rate based on the characteristics of a “parcel,” rather than on the assessed value of the property, which is the standard method for levying property taxes, according to It can be used for any type of spending, including construction costs, employee salaries and other projects or needs.
The school board initially approved a $24,000 contract with Gene Bregman & Associates to carry out the first survey and then a $20,000 contract with TBWB Strategies for parcel tax consulting services. It is under their direction that district staff asked the board to approve a second poll.
“If we’re going to go out for a parcel tax, then I want to be as assured as possible that is going to pass,” said MHUSD Superintendent Steve Betando during the Jan. 23 discussion. “This poll is really to affirm that.”
Once the survey is completed, district staff will present the results to the board at one of the February meetings, along with the feedback it acquired from the outreach efforts, and then the board will decide on whether to move forward with the parcel tax. If approved, a parcel tax committee, outside of the school district, will be formed to campaign for the measure leading into the June election.
If we’re going to go out for a parcel tax, then I want to be as assured as possible that is going to pass.

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