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Merced school leaders press for tax extension

Merced City School District board of education members have approved a resolution urging state legislators to place the issue of extending state taxes on the June ballot.

The five-member board unanimously approved the resolution Tuesday night. It will be forwarded to Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani, D-Livingston, and state Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres. Gov. Jerry Brown has been unsuccessful in persuading Republicans that the tax extension needs to be brought to a popular vote.

Superintendent RoseMary Parga Duran said if the tax extension isn't passed, the school district will be in dire straits. "We want to protect our schools," Duran said. "Education needs to be a priority. I don't know how we will make ends meet if we don't have the tax money. It's important."

If the five-year tax extension isn't put on the ballot and supported by voters, Duran is predicting that the district will be $4 million to $5 million short.

Board member Gene Stamm said it's not an easy time to be a trustee and there aren't many choices these days. "We have to have that (ballot measure). All we're asking for is representative government; that's all. Hopefully they will allow it (tax extension) to go to the ballot and let the folks decide what they want to do. It's not very democratic for a few folks to hold it up."

Cannella aide Jessica Hsiang said the senator recognizes the importance of access to a world-class education for every student. That's why the reform package he and his colleagues presented to Brown included spending reform prioritizing education, so schools will experience more stable funding, reduced cuts and fewer teacher layoffs.

Though talks reached an impasse this week, Cannella is committed to working together to fix the structural problems behind chronic state spending, budget and economic woes which have led to the tough decisions schools face, Hsiang said.

Board member Susan Walsh said we're in the midst of a very grim time. "I don't believe people know how bad it's going to be if we don't approve those taxes," Walsh said. "I think it will be a blow at the very fabric of what we do. These (taxes) aren't more; they are the same taxes we've been paying and we desperately need them. We've dug in as deep as we can."

Closing a school isn't a threat but it may need to be done, she said.

People sometimes have a notion that there's a lot of fat in government, Walsh said. The district has cut 40 percent of its administrators in the last few years.

Board member Adam Cox said he favors the state tax extension and said Californians are already paying them. "Leave it to the voters to decide what they want school districts to look like," Cox said. "Even getting it on the ballot is going to be a big battle."

Duran said seven and a half administrators have been cut at the district level since 2008. Those left have to deal with the same mandates.

Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or