Our View: Measure L is an investment in Auburn, and in children

Our View
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Voters considering Measure L on the Nov. 2 ballot should put the question in the form of an equation: Good schools + supportive public better prepared students and a stronger quality of life for all Auburn-area residents. For this reason, we urge voters to approve Measure L, the special parcel tax measure for the Auburn Union School District. The measure, also called the Quality Education Preservation Act for Auburn Union schools, would levy a $59 parcel tax on each individual property tax bill within the school district boundaries. Advocates estimate the measure would raise about $800,000 annually during its five-year term. The measure has several safeguards in place to ensure money will be used properly. Tax proceeds can only be used to: Preserve and maintain quality reading, math and science instruction, including hands-on programs and labs. Reduce class-size increases in all grades. Attract and retain quality teachers. Provide stable funding for libraries Offset deep budget cuts from the state. But the measure goes further with its accountability, setting up an independent oversight committee, independent financial audits of tax revenues and expenses, and an exemption for senior homeowners who can opt out of the parcel tax. Furthermore, the tax requires two-thirds approval from voters, ends after five years and cannot be renewed without another vote. This funding is a bridge, allowing state legislators and the governor time to repair the state funding formula while local schools continue adjusting administrative and teaching expectations. We understand that raising taxes during a recession is hard to swallow. Job losses, wage cuts and foreclosures have shattered the dreams of many families and put retirements on hold. For many, there just isn’t a lot of extra money sitting around — anywhere. But education is a lifeline for the young and an investment for the community, and Auburn Union has taken several steps in recent years to protect that investment. Faced with declining enrollment and nearly $3 million less annually in state funds, Auburn Union has eliminated an assistant superintendent, accounting director, vice principals, counselors, librarians and other classified positions. Teachers have accepted 10 furlough days over two years, and support staff has eight furlough days. Administrators have accepted pay cuts equaling 20 work days over two years, and board members eliminated their stipend and health benefits. Auburn Union also closed Alta Vista School, and eliminated sixth through eighth grades at Skyridge Elementary to reduce costs. Clearly, there is always more that can be done to improve student performance and increase district efficiencies. We trust that Auburn Union administrators and board members will continue their quest to find cost reductions that don’t affect the classroom. But Measure L offers local voters a chance to stand up for elementary schools, providing our children a solid education when they need it most. It offers local voters a chance to support core education programs like science, math, reading and writing, and retain qualified teachers who see the excitement of a child learning. In a time when public government and institutions seem outside the influence of the average person, Measure L gives local voters a chance to say yes to public education and the positive impact it has on the community. Measure L is a sound investment for Auburn’s present and future.