The West Sonoma County Union High School District (WSCUHSD) will host a special meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 23 to reconsider putting a parcel tax measure on the ballot in March and discuss the transient occupancy tax measure put forth by the county, according to the Nov. 23 agenda.
The agenda lists Superintendent Toni Beal’s request that the board approve the parcel tax measure, pivoting from the board’s 3-2 vote to defeat the proposal at the Nov. 18 meeting, with board president Jeanne Fernandes and trustees Diane Landry and Ted Walker in opposition.
Board vice president Kellie Noe and trustee Angie Lewis voted to support its placement on a 2021 ballot after Beal said the board must decide that night, regardless of whether the board had discussed the West County Transient Occupancy Tax measure approved Nov. 17 by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors.
5th District Supervisor Lynda Hopkins will then deliver a presentation on the transient occupancy tax (TOT) for the board’s consideration, with Beal’s request for an approval of a resolution in support of the tax, the agenda said.
According to the agenda, Beal recommends the trustees accept the resolution to support the county’s proposed ordinance. The resolution specifies that the board of supervisors would reintroduce the ordinance with “minor changes to ensure attainable requirements for school funding eligibility and membership on the Education Advisory Committee that represents all affected west county parties.”
Further, the document said the ordinance “will dedicate 50% of the revenue generated to schools and education opportunities in the West County Transient Occupancy Tax Area as long as recipient schools are actively working towards regional unification efforts and striving to maintain existing school facilities and programs.”
Next, the board may take action on potential school consolidation, as Beal asks the trustees for direction on next steps. The conversation on whether to consolidate to prevent the $2 million shortfall projected in the 2022-23 school year was on the Nov. 18 agenda, but the board postponed the item for the Monday special meeting after discussion about the parcel tax measure consumed much of the meeting.
The Nov. 23 agenda said district staff will provide “a summary of stakeholder feedback, a review of current district program limitations and budget challenges and possible scenarios for addressing these program and budget challenges.”
A district survey on potential consolidation and a separate poll conducted by Isom Advisors assessing support for a parcel tax measure yielded some feedback from the west county community on the possibility of unifying the student body onto one campus to save resources and keep some programming, as discussed at the Nov. 18 meeting.
The stakes raise higher as the Sonoma County Office of Education (SCOE) requires the board demonstrate how it will cut down or drum up $2 million by the 2022-23 school year in its first interim report, due to be presented to the board on Dec. 9 and to SCOE on Dec. 15, or risk certifying as qualified, or potentially unable to meet its financial obligations in the current year or next two years, Beal said at the district’s Nov. 4 town hall. Meanwhile, the district’s structural deficit and declining enrollment drains the budget and forces the district to consider more program cuts.
Consolidation is one path the board contemplating to avoid the financial peril of sinking to a negative certification after classifying as qualified, which would result in the district losing the ability to borrow money and emptying out of funds in June 2022, Beal said at the Nov. 4 town hall. This scenario gets worse after that, Beal said — if the district could not complete payroll, it would need to pursue a state loan and the state would assign a state administrator to call the shots, stripping the district of decision-making power.
Edit: A previous version of this article stated that the first interim report needed to be to SCOE on Dec. 9. The report is due to be presented to the school board on Dec. 9 and to SCOE on Dec. 15.