Facing $8.3 million in potential cuts in the upcoming school year, Santa Rosa City Schools officials are considering putting a tax measure before voters in November.
Sonoma County's largest school district is wrestling with cutting as many as eight furlough days, reducing the budget reserve from 3 percent to 1 percent and increasing class sizes.
"We are at a point of almost desperation," school board member Tad Wakefield said Tuesday. "I feel like it's responsible to look into it, although I am sensitive to the burdens of Santa Rosa citizens. I know nobody wants to be taxed into the ground."
District officials are set to begin crafting the 2012-2013 budget without knowing how much money education will receive in the Legislature's final spending plan or how Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed $7 billion tax initiative will fare with voters in November.
Board members could vote<NO1><NO> tonight on whether to commission a voter sentiment survey to test voters' affinity for either a bond measure or a parcel tax.
Bonds can be used only for buildings and other capital improvements, such as solar installations, and need 55 percent of voters to say yes. Parcel taxes can be used for teachers, programs and supplies but require a two-thirds vote.
Bonds impose a higher tax bill on more costly homes, parcel taxes assess a flat rate for every property.
Officials expressed some unease with spending general fund money on a voter survey, whose cost is not yet determined, but Superintendent Sharon Liddell said it's the only way to judge whether the district should press forward.
"If we are going to attempt to get a bond or parcel tax that is going to support the district the way it needs to be supported, we need to be smart in how we do it," she said. "That means we need to go to our community and find out their views, and we can't do that without a poll of some kind."
How that survey is conducted and how the district establishes spending priorities is crucial, said board Vice President Bill Carle.